Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Update from Itai, Wed., Dec. 31, noon

  • Areas within 4.5- 10 km (around 2.5 – 6 miles) range of Gaza- no school- only factories deemed as "essential services" open- 15 second warning available before rocket attack.
  • Areas within 10-20 km (around 6 – 12.5 miles) range of Gaza- no school-30 second warning available before rocket attack.
  • Areas within 20-30 km (around 12.5 – 18.5 miles) range of Gaza-school according to individual approval-45 second warning available before rocket attack.
  • Areas within 30-40 km (around 18.5 – 25 miles) range of Gaza- 60 second warning available before rocket attack.

AP Map, Dec. 30, 2008, Seattle PI

As most of you heard, yesterday missiles hit K.Malach region for the first time. As much as it was expected, it was also obvious we are in a new stage in this operation. Orit and myself were at Yedid center when the alarm sounded, and the hit was pretty close. We then walked in the neighborhood, and it was obvious that the people who had not been part of this “experience” yet, were under a huge stress. Fortunately, no serious damage was caused in this attack. Today another rocket fell in an open field near Kiryat Malachi, and over 60 Grad and Qassam rockets were launched from Gaza today.

Hof Ashkelon keeps suffering from missiles all over the place from south to north. The government has provided temporary shutters to the “caravilla” settlement in Nizan (where the evacuees from the Gaza Strip are), which is not protected. Luckily no serious damage has been caused since the beginning of the operation.

Due to the situation, the 5 post-college age Otzma volunteers (from Arizona, Seattle, and California) will not come to KM at this point. We hope we will have them here when the operation is over and quiet will come to the region.

In both regions, the education system did not reopen after Hanukkah yet, and the municipalities are working in emergency setting: meaning that they are dealing only with the situation; everything else is postponed.

Aside from Kiryat Malachi and Hof Ashkelon, Hamas is attacking targets all over the south of Israel.. The last major destination was Beer Sheva where missiles hit yesterday and today. Yet so far the number of victims in the Israeli side is low According to the news, approximately 800,000 Israeli citizens are at risk within the range of these missiles. The IDF is continuing the operation and we hope it will reach its successful end soon.

We would like to thank you all for your support, it really means a lot to us and help us go through these days.

Happy and quiet new year to all of us, Itai

Itai Ziedenberg

Partnership 2000 Director, Jewish Agency for Israel

Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday Update

Report From Ira Kerem:
Included in a 10 km. radius from Gaza are almost all the moshavim and kibbutzim of Hof Ashkelon. Included in the 30 km. radius is Kiryat Malachi. This is not to say that KM or that even most of the settlements of HA are under attack but they are all within range of Hamas missiles.
Six thousand five hundred reserves have been ordered up and it looks like our ground forces are making their last preparations before being ordered to go in. Despite the effective air force attacks at weakening Hamas, no one should believe that Hamas has lost the ability to fight and to inflict serious casualties to our forces.
The next phase of this war will not be so clean to us and certainly not to the civilians who will be caught in the firing. We should expect a lot more condemnation from the rest of the world but maybe, and this is a big maybe, this attack might change things for the better. Then again, we might never be able to silence their rockets and we just might be on the road to losing lots of soldiers and whatever little sympathy we might have had with the rest of the world. It is a difficult call. As is too often the case, there were no good choices for us. Let's hope and pray that we will be better off after this action and that human life will be spared as much as possible, Ira

See below an email, sent on to me today;
From Maxine, a resident of Ashkelon.
Dec 29, 2008 at 12:39 PM
subject :Another day in Ashkelon under missile fire
It's 12:25 in the afternoon and the city has been jumping, literally and figuratively. The morning started nice and quietly enough and since there were no alerts during the night, it lulled many of us into a false hope that the worst was behind us, that is until the first alarm of the day at about 9:15.
As per drill, we (Rafi, Shani, me and the 3 dogs) all ran downstairs to my mother-in-law's hall, where she was already waiting for us with her housecleaner who was muttering something in Russian, like "oy, oy, oy." Then, a massive "boom" shook the air. It was so loud that my mother-in-law heard it - and without her 2 hearing aids, she doesn't hear a thing.
We waited a few extra minutes and then the phone started ringing. This one was really not far from the house, within a 10 minute walking distance and is on the route for my semi-regular power walks. A worker was killed and several injured. He didn't go into the shelter that was on site and so, he became the city's first (and hopefully only) fatality. And ironically enough he's an Israeli Arab.

After that, there were about 12 more rockets, the last one landing even closer to the house, near my brother-in-law's house where all the windows shook.

We also hear the bombings coming from our army and for those, obviously, there are no alerts but we jump anyway.The Homefront Command has told us all to stay indoors and so I opted not to go to work today,even though I am all dressed and ready to go. I'll stay in the house where hopefully I'll be safe. I have no desire to go outside whatsoever, although my Oreos are gone and I am tempted to run out and buy a new supply but I think I'll pass.

[My daughter] Shani isn't going to work today either and after this last grad, the streets here are really empty of cars and pedestrians. Shani's girlfriend was supposed to get married tomorrow night outside of Ashdod, the next town over and now in range, but the Homefront has cancelled any gatherings of more than 40 people and rather than look for a place in Tel Aviv now, and go thru all the dynamics of making a wedding, she's cancelled the wedding til this blows over.

The malls are closed, Ashkelon College has cancelled classes as well, and although the sun is shining, it's not a sunny day.
The following comes from my friend Leone, and she has a point:
  • If we were trying to kill civilians, with our plane attacks, 300 would be a shameful number! We would have killed thousands and thousands by now! But that goes unnoticed.

That's all for now. We're just hanging out waiting for the next one. We've gotten invitations to stay at friends, distant and not-so-distant family, and even some of my students from the college called and invited us to their houses out of missile range (anything for an "A"?!). We have plans to get out of Ashkelon if it gets really bad but I'd rather not; it's such a headache.

Time will tell.
Bye for now,
Ashkelon, Israel

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Update Sunday 28th Dec

Report From Ira Kerem:
Thank you to all of our American friends who have called and written expressing their concern over what is happening in Gaza and how it impacts on life in Hof Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi.
In our region, things are relatively quiet. Missiles have fallen into open fields but none have hit homes, public buildings or have hurt individuals in the region. I spent the day in Kiryat Malachi which is now in range of missiles from Gaza (one actually hit Kiryat Gat) but people were out on the streets and in the stores and it felt like a regular sunny day. So far, Kiryat Malachi has not had a bomb planted in the town, not had a suicide bomber blow up there, and not had a missile hit it.
Even though 4 kibbutzim and a moshav are situated 3 miles or less from the Gaza border, recent missile fire is aimed at their maximum range in an attempt to create a sense of insecurity to as many Israelis as possible. A missile hit the outskirts of Ashdod to make that point.
Revital tells me that our kibbutzim and moshavim have not been hit. Of course, people stayed home today and close to shelters. The whole region is uneasy and it is doubtful if schools in the region will be held Tuesday when the Hanukah vacation comes to an end.
Rocket-alert sirens are going off on a frequent basis and people are feeling nervous in the city of Ashkelon and in Hof Ashkelon.
In the meantime, Phoenix and Tucson must be thanked for the creation of Hof Ashkelon's emergency communication's center. It has been fully staffed by the army and has been in operation for the last two days. TV crews and notables have come by to visit and to see how the region in cooperation with the police, the army, and the government stay in touch with the 19 communities of Hof Ashkelon.
Portland should also be thanked for having paid for the emergency governing center where the Hof Ashkelon municipal departments are now located underground and from where they are providing services to all who are in need.
Hopefully, the ability of Hamas to carry out serious and accurate missile attacks has been crippled, however even under air force attack, they were able to kill a 50 year old man in Netivot.
Let us hope and pray that the residents of the Jewish communities surrounding Gaza will be able to live in safety. Let us also hope that the Palestinian civilians in Gaza might also be able live in safety under a leadership that really cares for their welfare.
I am sure that we will have more to report in the coming days.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rocket attacks from Gaza

Today the Hamas in Gaza fired 60 rockets at Israeli civilian targets. Since the end of the ceasefire there has been continuous missile, mortar and rocket bombardment from Gaza at civilian targets in Israel. Sirens have sent residents of southern Israel to seek shelter in "secure rooms". For the first time, rocket-alert sirens have also been activated in Kiryat Gat, Ashdod and Kiryat Malachi though rockets have not yet fallen there.

Israel has finally had enough and today there was a massive airstrike on Gaza military targets by the Israel airforce. The Hamas was caught by surprise and many military targets were eliminated. A state of high alert has been declared.

From ynet: The army called on communities located close to the Gaza Strip fence, and also on Sderot residents, to remain indoors. Public gatherings have been disallowed. Other communities located up to 10 kilometers away from the Strip were ordered to remain 15 seconds away from secured rooms. There too, no public gatherings are allowed.

In communities located 10-20 kilometers away from the Strip, including Ashkelon, residents were ordered to remain no more than 30 seconds away from secured rooms. Communities located in the 20-30 kilometer range, including the towns of Ashdod, Ofakim, Kiryat Malachi, and Kiryat Gat must remain 45 seconds away from shelters.

An email exchange:

Nicole (resident of Hof Ashkelon): "We heard the blasts and booms of the IDF attacking Gaza very heavily this morning, and then there were red alert sirens - rockets being launched in our direction. I don't know of any that landed in Hof Ashkelon but by mid afternon today 6 rockets had fallen in Ashkelon - miraculously they landed in open spaces, we heard it - but only faintly this time.

Netivot is bearing the brunt of the missile attacks in the current barrage, with one person killed and injuries. I expect you are reading all about it in ynet. Here the TV is continuously reporting . It's still Hanuka vacation but in any case schools have been closed until further notice.I'm supposed to be leaving on Monday night on a trip overseas but I am loath to go while this is going on".

Ira Kerem in reply: "Things are going to probably get a lot worse in the next few days and weeks. Hamas and the other terrorist groups have ordered all out war on Israel. As we have learned from Lebanon, there is a limit to what the air force alone can do to protect civilian targets. So after more of our civilians are killed, there will be a call for the army to go into Gaza and then we will lose a few hundred soldiers and be in the same situation. We will be condemned by the UN and most of the world for killing innocent civiliians. It really is no win. Go on your trip. Your presence in Hof Ashkelon is not going to save the situation".

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Joan Mollen's 2nd grandchild was born the first day of Hanukkah.
Stu Mellan and Carolyn Sanger, members of the steering committee from Tucson, just became grandparents too this month.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hila Levy-Hamami visiting US communities

From December 2 though December 16, Hila Levy-Hamami, the Youth Director of the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, visited Tucson, Phoenix, and Seattle, to talk about the different projects the TIPS communities support in Hof Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi and also to talk about life for youth in the Hof Ashkelon Region, especially under the stress of missile attack.

First she visited Tucson. She told how the Tucson Jewish community supports projects in Hof Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi though donations to the Federation's campign and individual giving to the Partnership. She also talked about life for youth in the Hof Ashkelon Region , and the problems caused by the random shelling of the area with Qassam rockets. She thanked the Tucson Jewish community for supplying funds for the emergency system in the region, which is put into use with Qassam attack. Now that the "cease fire" is officially over, unfortunately, more rockets are being fired into Hof Ashkelon, so the emergency equipment is very important.

With Tucson host family

On her first day (Tuesday) in Tucson, she spoke to the North West community of Tucson, a group that often does not get Israeli visitors. She told them about the partnership, how TIPS supports the region, and how they too can get involved.

The next day she was interviewed by Rabbi Sam Cohen for his weekly radio show, "Too Jewish." She talked about how it was to live under Qassam rockets for residents of the Hof Ashkelon region and how the Tucson Jewish community has supported the Hof Ashkelon youth, especially about providing funds to help the youth take a trip to the Golan region and get away from Qasssam attacks.

She met with the PNAI (Parents of North American Israeli) group, telling them about Hof Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi. The audience had a lot of questions and were interested in her personal story and the projects. They were quite touched to hear that her father had immigrated to Israel from Yemen as a baby, and that he was the first one from Moshav Heletz and the only one of 9 children to get a university education.

Later in the day, she had a great meeting with the professional staff of the JCC. She also attended a staff meeting at the JCC and compared it to staff meetings she attends in Israel!

On her last day, she met with students at the Hebrew Academy and later with the Jewish Federation executives. .

The highlight of her visit was the 2nd Tucson P2K annual meeting. She was the main speaker. We also heard from other Tucsonians about their experiences in the region.
About 100 were in attendance, and it was a great success. One key item she talked about there as well as other places was the amazing success of the mini-soccer league that TIPS financed for the first time last year. There had never been a sports league among the 20 communities in Hof Ashkelon. With our help, especially for transportation, the first one came into being in 2008, and the participating youth said it was fantastic. Since teens in the same community often go to 4 or 6 different schools, they rarely have a chance to be together. On the soccer team, they could, so they visited, gained community spirit, and had a chance to get to know other teens in the region. They also let out excess energy caused by the stress of the threat and reality of the rockets.

She then went to Phoenix where she spoke at two Jewish day schools, to the entire Jewish Campus staff, to the Phoenix TIPS committee, and at a few meetings with synagogue leaders and other Jewish community leaders.
Lunch with Alliance for Israel leadership
Outside HarZion synagogue

Her host family, the Lights, took Hila to Sedona.

Hila was kept quite busy in Seattle, although some of her talks were cancelled because of two unusual snow storms!

The afternoon she arrived, Hila talked to a group of 4th, 5th, and 7th graders at Herzl-Ner Tamid religious school. Some of the youth attended the JCC Day Camp and met the counselors from Kiryat Malachi and Hof Ashkelon the past two summers. They were interested when she showed pictures of Netiv Haasara and how the young children go on with their lives, even when the Red Color warning siren goes off. They liked the song created for the kids to help reduce their stress.

At six p.m. she spoke to several people (including a teacher) and showed her PowerPoint presentation an hour before Hebrew High began.

The next morning she talked to a group of twenty 8th graders at the Orthodox Seattle Hebrew Academy.

Most of these youth will be traveling to Israel in the spring and they were excited to know that they might be able to do a joint project with their peers in the region.

Of course, most of the girls wanted to be in a picture with her.

The new director of the Middle School, Rabbi Yoni Sacks, was very interested in having pen pals and establishing contact with 8th graders in Hof Ashkelon before they visit, so we are working on organizing such an arrangement with the 7th and 8th graders at Morasha School at Moshav Hodaya.

At noon, Hila spoke to the Israel Programming Committee, Staff, JT News, and then met with Amy and Sara and Dina about speaking in public schools
Sara Lahyani, Liat, and Hila talking about teen trip.

Friday, Hila talked to the 7th and 8th graders at the Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle. The then spoke to a very gifted 5th grade class at Stevenson elementary school in Bellevue. The students were in the middle of a 3-week study of the Middle East Conflict, and really enjoyed her visit.

Hila spoke at Temple B'nai Torah, a Reform congregation, on Friday night, and at Herzl Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation on Shabbat morning.

Several Host Families joined Hila for dinner at Lorna and Dave Isenberg's on Saturday night.

Sunday at eleven a.m., she talked to residents of the Summit Retirement apartments. Many have children or grandchildren in Israel.

Hila was amazed by the snow in Seattle. Much more fell at Dina's than at Lornas.
Sunday evening she spoke to the Tribe, a young adult group the large Reform synagogue, Temple de Hirsch Sinai.

Monday and Tuesday Hila spoke at 3 high schools. 3 others had to cancel because of the bad weather, unfortunately.
At Garfield High School

In front of Ingraham High School, with Rob Jacobs, the Seattle director of "Stand With Us "
Sports trophies at Ingraham. Hila was very surprised to learn how big sports were in high schools, and Amerian teens were shocked to hear that Israeli high schools do not have sports teams or intramural sports.

Signing in at the main office of Ingraham Snow outside of Ingraham
Snow and school buses

Mercer Island--speaking to Advanced Placement Comparative Government class

Before going to the airport on Tuesday evening, Hila spoke to the SpringBoard, the Young Adult Leadership course. She told them too about the major program that TIPS supports in Kiryat Malachi, ART CITY, which has given talented artistic teens ownership of dance, theater, and music in town and presented three major concerts, including one last July together with leading professional Israeli musicians. Call Festival B'Shekel, over 12,000 people from Central and Southern Israel attended this amazing event, and saw Kiryat Malachi is a very positive light.

Monday, December 8, 2008

International P2K Conference in Israel

About 250 leaders representing 45 Partnership 2000 regions and 500 Jewish communities from all over the world took part in the third annual Partnership 2000 International Conference. The conference was held in Tel Aviv, marking the first time it took place in Israel. Held under the banner, "Partnerships of Inspiration", the conference focused on the Partnerships' broader organizational environment. The conference was simulcast via the internet.

Partnership 2000 awards were presented to four Partnerships:
1. Kiryat Malachi-Ashkelon Coast - TIPS (Tucson, Phoenix, Seattle) Children's Art Project (see photo above).

2. Beit Shemesh-Mateh Yehuda - Washington-South Africa Bike Trail Project.
3. Ofakim-Merchavim - MetroWest Women's Empowerment Project, assisting area women in opening ethnic-food businesses
4. Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir - Chicago Kolot Project.