Lessons from the War
Last week the senior staff of JDC-Israel and I traveled to Ashdod to learn how a city of 230,000 residents coped with its sudden inclusion into the group of cities under missile attack. We met with Dr. Yechiel Lasri, who was voted in as the new Mayor in early November. He gave us the following background on how the city was able to prepare and cope with the crisis:
- Military intelligence had informed the city officials over two years ago that Hamas had missile reach to Ashdod.
- As Ashdod is a fairly new city, 70% of homes and apartments do have protected rooms. For the other 30%, the city invested in the private and public shelters.
- Emergency instructions were prepared in Hebrew, Russian, French, Amharic and English, as Ashdod has the largest concentration of immigrants of any city in the country.
- Volunteers visited 20,000 homes in the week leading up to the war to personally explain the emergency procedures, which resulted in saving the life of a family whose apartment took a direct hit while they had run for cover to the stairwell.
- Emergency drills were carried out with cooperation of police, Magen David Adom, and Homeland Security.
- A 24 hour trauma hotline was opened with more than 500 calls a day, even following the ceasefire.
- 22 missiles fell on the city – half in populated areas, half on the outskirts. One woman was killed. Two people were wounded badly; ten were wounded lightly.
The Mayor felt that the level of preparedness of the city enabled residents to bear up under the crisis, and praised the excellent coordination with national government and JDC's efforts to care for the elderly and disabled. Unfortunately – and perhaps realistically – the Mayor is already planning for the next spate of attacks. He is trying to secure protection for all kindergartens and schools so that pupils can continue to learn during the next crisis.
Bedouin Children Get a Boost
I was very pleased that Charles Ribakoff, newly appointed Chair of the Sub-Committee for Ashalim, the Association for Planning and Development of Services for Children and Youth at Risk, joined us for the day. On our way to Ashdod we stopped in Lakiya, a Bedouin town near Beersheva, and visited the Echad program to promote early childhood education, which is supported by the San Francisco Federation. Bedouin mothers – many of whom had no say in choosing their husbands or pursuing higher education – are being taught to use the computer to stimulate their children's education and are being encouraged to send their children to enriching pre-school frameworks. We cannot ignore demographic trends. The impact on the next generation of Bedouins – which comprises 25% of the Negev's population -- is invaluable.
This week JDC sponsored the first ever international conference on "Haredim in the World of Work". Professionals who work to integrate Haredi men and women into the workforce came from the U.S., Britain and Canada to share ideas and experience. Out of respect to the participants, the Conference was held in compliance with Haredi norms, including separate seating for men and women during the presentations.
In Israel, approximately 650,000 people are ultra-orthodox – six and half times the number of Ethiopians or Druze. Almost half of all Haredi families live under the poverty line, primarily because the parents do not work. JDC has been involved in developing appropriate work opportunities for this population for over a decade and since the establishment of TEVET, has provide employment and training for thousands of men and women. As in the case of the Bedouins, JDC's employment programs will have a major impact on the next – and growing – generation of Haredim.
Shalom from Jerusalem,