Another week, another tragedy in Israel. Though many of us have become almost accustomed to hearing bad news emanating from the Jewish State, this week’s tragic loss struck particularly close to home. The loss of Chaya Zissel Braun, a three-month-old American-Israeli from Los Angeles, hit the community hard.
To add insult to injury, when many of us read about the terror attack which took her life, we came upon the shocking headline from the Associated Press, “Israeli police shoot man in East Jerusalem.” The terrorist, who had just rammed his car into innocent men, women, and children at a train station, was portrayed as just another man quarreling with police.
Headlines like this one are nothing new, but never cease to amaze. No matter how much Israel does to protect innocent life, it is always portrayed as the villain. While we in the community understand the media bias against Israel, the vast majority of Americans do not. Uninformed and uninterested, most Americans digest their news about Israeli in sound-bites and headlines.
Thankfully, despite the steady stream of anti-Israel press, most of our country’s leaders have remained pro-Israel. In July, Congress voted to support Israel’s right to defend itself by an enormous margin, with the Senate voting by unanimous consent in defense of the Jewish state. This is a reflection of the years of hard work our community has put in to build relationships and cultivate strong, pro-Israel leaders.
Yet recent stories and polls have shown shifting trends in support for Israel on the ground. In July poll, just 57% of Americans answered that they thought Israel was “justified in taking military action against Hamas” in Gaza, including just 45% of Democrats. In fact, though overall support remains strong, more and more leaders are feeling more comfortable voicing their criticisms of Israel and Israeli policy, including opinions on settlements and Gaza.
Recently, Secretary of State John Kerry hinted that ISIS, otherwise known as the Islamic State, was having success in recruiting foreigners due to the continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This comes after other comments this summer in which Kerry alluded to Israel as potentially on the path to becoming an Apartheid state. Our longest, and strongest relationships are beginning to show signs of decay.
Two years ago 93 new Representatives and 13 new Senators were elected to Congress—nearly 20% of the entire body. Of the 93, most had never traveled to Israel, many had never left the country, and dozens did not even hold a Passport. These 116 new members of Congress, despite having few connections to Israel or our community, now make up 20% of the body that distributes more than $3.5 billion of military assistance to Israel each year. Polls are showing that this year it is likely that even more new members will be elected, including one right here in Los Angeles.
As young professionals in the community, we have a unique opportunity to develop long-lasting relationships with the leaders that will determine Israel’s future. Unfortunately, we cannot rely on the truth alone to support our cause. Instead, we must work night and day to ensure that our future leaders understand how important Israel is to their constituents, and to their country. Only by cultivating and electing strong supporters of the US-Israel relationship can we continue to ensure our community’s interests are fought for.
During the year, I work with American Jewish students across the country. Over the last few weeks, I’ve taken time off from my job in Chicago to fly back to Los Angeles and support Elan Carr, someone I know will be a true leader for Israel and our community. While most of us do not have the luxury of taking weeks off work, we can all do our part to ensure Israel’s future. From writing op-eds to making phone calls, each of us can take action to ensure Israel’s continued support. Most importantly, we all must vote and make our voices heard.
Without our help, the relationships our parents built will mean nothing. It is our time to determine Israel, and America’s future.
The Red Star Ball: Supporting Magen David Adom
The event sought to raise money to support the Magen David Adom, Israel’s ambulance, blood-services, and disaster-relief organization. The organization’s Emergency Medical Technicians respond to victims of terror attacks as well as civilian emergency calls. Magen David Adom also operates Israel’s only blood bank.
The single blood bank that serves the entirety of Israel’s 8 million people is an above-ground facility. As the 2014 conflict with Hamas made apparent, no portion of Israel is safe from rocket fire. This leaves the current blood bank exposed and at risk.
Continued blood production processes are vital during war-time emergencies in order to minimize casualties of IDF soldiers and civilian victims alike. The only way to ensure the safety of Israel’s blood supply is to build a new, fully sheltered, underground blood center.
Though Magen David Adom is the only organization mandated by the Israeli government to supply blood services and disaster relief, it is not a government agency. Only 6% of its annual budget comes from government funding. Magen David Adom relies almost entirely on donors. The host of the fundraiser, American Friends of Magen David Adom, is the largest supporter of Magen David Adom worldwide.
The Red Star Ball featured a special guest performance by comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Following a film depicting the life-saving work of Magen David Adom, Seinfeld appeared on stage and joked about the contrast between the work of the volunteers and his job as a comedian. Seinfeld is a longtime supporter of the American Red Cross (Magen David Adom is the Israeli version of the Red Cross). He is scheduled to perform four sold-out shows in Israel this December.
The Red Star Ball honored Gila and Adam Milstein, Ruth Flinkman-Marandy, Ben Marandy, and Barak Raviv for their humanitarian work and achievements.
The donations garnered at the Red Star Ball exceeded expectations! Over $12 million has been raised as of the date of this posting. But the job is not yet done! More funds are needed for the building of the underground facility and continued funding is needed for ongoing operations of Magen David Adom. Donations can be made at www.afdma.org
More photos from the event:
Photo credits: Noam Chen and Orly Halevy
Defending My Defense of Israel
As Israel’s history demonstrates, it can be attacked at any given moment. Whether by Hamas, Hezbollah, or ISIS, Israel must be prepared to defend itself at any given moment.
When conflicts erupt involving Israel, so do posts on social media. While some post about such issues, others complain about their newsfeeds being flooded with conflict-related posts. When it seems like everyone already either supports or opposes Israel’s actions, why spend time and energy posting about it? Nothing we post on Facebook can change anyone’s mind, right?
Attempting to enlighten the “other side” of a conflict may be like talking to a wall. For this reason, many people shy away from posting about the topic. Nevertheless, it is vital to inform those who are not on either side – the undecided and indifferent. We must get their attention; their opinions matter. As they have the right to protest, write to congress, and vote, it is important that they understand the situation. When we see uneducated people posting lies and spreading hate, it is our responsibility to balance that out. It is not fair for us to reap the benefits of the soldiers who risk their lives protecting our country, and not take 30 seconds to support their cause.
Global anti-Semitism has been and continues to be on the rise. However, not until the January 2015 attack at the Kosher supermarket in France did we see anti-Semitism being reported by Western media. Anti-Semitic attacks in France doubled in 2014. Seven thousand Jews fled France that year – not in response to terrorism, but due to discrimination they felt in their day-to-day lives. The media found this uninteresting and not news-worthy; the public was largely unaware of it. One of the only reasons for which I was previously aware of the extent of European anti-Semitism is because my friends posted about it on Facebook. Present-day anti-Semitism is eerily similar to that in pre-war Europe. What is the point of saying “never again” if we do not speak up when Jews are currently being persecuted?
We must not ignore the issue merely because it may not get as many “likes” as creative pictures of our food. I have heard people complain that during conflicts, they do not like seeing “political” posts on social media. Imagine if social media existed during World War II. What if people were able to communicate the way we can now? Would we have wanted our friends to stay silent just because the issue was unpleasant?
As I am concluding this article, I open my Facebook newsfeed and see posts about swastikas being spray painted on a University of California Jewish fraternity house. This story does not appear on either CNN nor Fox News. I would not have known of the occurrence if it were not for my friend’s post. This perfectly highlights the importance of using your voice on social media.
If you’re contemplating posting something in support of Israel and do not know what to post, keep two things in mind. First, be respectful. Refrain from degrading those with whom you disagree. Not only would it not further your point but it would make your message seem less reasonable. Second, when possible, use reputable sources from well-known American media. While most Jews know that Israeli media sources such as Haaretz are reliable, most Americans do not. Because our purpose in posting is to spread truth to those who are unaware, we should try to use sources upon which they themselves rely.
The Man Who Invented The Iron Dome
The Israeli defense establishment thought Brig. Gen. Daniel Gold was absolutely crazy when he broached the idea for the missile-defense system that came to be known as Iron Dome (Kippat Barzelin Hebrew). Several years later, Iron Dome turned out to be the surprise hero of the 2012 Gaza war. When Operation Protective Edge began in July 2014, it gained superstar status for shooting down a large proportion of the rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli population centers.
“My incentive was saving human lives,” he replies. “I saw what was going on and I said to myself, with all the technology that exists in Israel we must use it to protect human life. We will find a way. It always takes the political and military echelons a long time to think about what they want to do, and in the meantime we started to create a solution.”
Gold had already convened a committee in 2004 to study anti-missile technology options. In August 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew its citizens from the Gaza Strip and many experts correctly predicted that, instead of bringing peace, the move would invite further aggression from Gaza against Israeli towns near the border. Gold forged ahead with Iron Dome in blatant disregard of a Defense Ministry directive.
He refused to allow the project to get stuck in the wheels of bureaucracy. “I wasn’t sure I could get the funds to go ahead, and I had a private investor lined up just in case, but I didn’t need him in the end,” says Gold, who won the Israel Defense Prize in 2012 for spearheading the Iron Dome project.
Tilting At Windmills
Nevertheless,–and assign it to Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Other companies worked on aspects of Iron Dome, including mPrest Systems (software) and Elta Systems (radar).
“We picked the best in the entire country,” Gold told Yisrael Hayom (Israel Today) in 2012. “We had 70-year-old missile experts working alongside 25-year-old engineers fresh out of college, working shoulder to shoulder without any hierarchy. It was like running 15 serious start-up companies at the same time, all of which have to work in harmony with one another and be successful in record time.”
Because the project had zero margin for error, he and his staff developed a special methodology to manage the diverse team. “Others are now interested in copying this model,” says Gold, who has doctorates in electrical engineering and business management from Tel Aviv University.
His huge risk paid off big time.
“When I started this endeavor, the scientific community was skeptical. When you think about it, it sounds like science fiction, the idea that missiles can intercept other missiles while flying. … But I am happy to say science fiction became a reality,” he was cited as saying by the Humans of Tel Aviv project.
“If you believe in something, find the resilience in you to make it happen — even fight windmills if you have to. Sometimes it’s worth being Don Quixote.”
‘I Love Iron Dome’
Nine Iron Dome batteries are now in place in Israel, with more to come. The system’s radar identifies incoming projectiles and determines which missiles are most likely to hit populated areas or strategic assets. It then fires a Tamir interceptor missile at the chosen target to destroy it. (Iron Dome differs in many ways from the US-built Patriot surface-to-air missile system; it is smaller, less costly per use and tailored to specific circumstances.)
Israeli business daily Globes estimates that NIS 4.5 billion ($1.3 billion) of Israeli and US funds have been spent on developing, building and utilizing Iron Dome.
Its cost is irrelevant to the millions of Israelis whose lives have been saved by this gutsy experiment. Israel’s gratitude to Iron Dome is manifested in “I Love Iron Dome” apparel, songs and videos.
Here’s a video for children about Iron Dome.
“People feel that someone or something is protecting them. They gain confidence because they see [Iron Dome] working so nicely. Of course, they still have to go to shelters because it’s not 100 percent effective, but people are feeling safer and feeling proud of this Israeli achievement.”
He points out that since the first Iron Dome battery became operational in 2011, the system has successfully made more than 1,000 intercepts. “This makes me feel very good,” he says.
Today, Gold runs his own international consultancy, Gold R&D Technology and Innovation, and is voluntary head of the Israel National Committee for Commercial/Civilian Cyber R&D. He’s also on the board of Israel Brain Technologies (IBT), a non-profit dedicated to advancing Israel’s brain technology industry for the benefit of patients.
In a recent IBT interview, Gold said that the Iron Dome developers implemented algorithms based on Israeli human brain research.
“How do you approach a complex problem and solve it? We do this in the Israeli Defense Forces every day,” he said. “Many of the people involved in these types of projects, like the Iron Dome for example, then take their skills to industry. What they learned about putting together complex multidisciplinary solutions serves them well in fields such as high-tech and brain-tech.”
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