Tuesday, 20 November 2012

American Jews show solidarity with Israel during visit

Jewish spiritual and community leaders from the United States are in Israel to show support.

Jewish spiritual and community leaders from the United States arrived in Israel on Tuesday to show solidarity with the Israeli people.

"Our goal is to visualize what is going on here and to take a message back to the United States that Israel is doing what it must to survive," said Michael Siegal, chairman of board of trustees for the Cleveland Jewish Federation and Jewish Federations of North America.

The Jewish Federations of North America is an umbrella organization representing some 155 Jewish federations and more than 300 smaller network communities across North America. Its members have pledged $5 million to help Israelis overcome the rocket attacks from Hamas, especially those Israelis living in the country's south where hundreds of rockets have landed.

"We experienced five different air raid scenarios, including a point where we had to leave the bus and lie on the side of the road where we watched the Iron Dome intercept rockets above us," said Siegal, who arrived here with 15 others on Sunday.

"We also saw Israeli children running into bomb shelters as sirens sounded," he said. "There

was real fear on their faces."

On Monday alone some 120 rockets were fired into southern Israel; the Iron Dome defense system intercepted most of them. On Tuesday, as the U.S. group toured areas under attack, more rockets streaked over the sky.

Red Alerts, sirens and text messages that give people 15 seconds of warning that a rocket is on its way, sounded as far away as Jerusalem. Meanwhile Israel increased its attacks on Hamas' targets and talk of a ground operation by Israel's military into the Gaza Strip grew intense.

"I came because I think it is very important for the American Jewish community to show its support for Israel at this time of crisis," said Daniel Odrezin, assistant executive director of the Jewish Federation of Birmingham, Ala.

"Coming here from the U.S. and experiencing this conflict is an indescribable feeling," said Odrezin, adding that it "is hard for those not here to really understand the magnitude and the effects of on-going rocket strikes on the Israeli population."

Among the U.S. Jewish leaders here are ones who arrived from New York, Chicago, Boston, New Jersey,Cleveland, Miami, Los Angeles, Washington and Minneapolis.

About 2 dozen rabbis from congregations across the USA also arrived in Israel this week, paying condolence calls to families affected by the terror attacks, including the families of people killed in by a rocket Thursday.

"We felt it was important for American rabbis to make show of solidarity with the Israeli people," said Rabbi Leonard Matansky, head of the K.I.N.S congregation in West Rodgers Park, Chicago, and dean of the Ida Crown Jewish Academy, the largest Jewish high school in Chicago.

Matansky, who is also vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America, explained that the decision to come to Israel was only made Friday night. His group brought with them hundreds of gifts for Israeli children who spend time in bomb shelters.

"Together we represent thousands of Jews in America and there is tremendous concern among American Jewry about what is happening here, it is our responsibility to take news from here back to our communities in the U.S.," Matansky said.


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