Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem’s campaign to help communities in southern Israel, where kites and balloons carrying incendiary material rained down from Gaza last spring, exceeded its original goal, organizers say.
In less than a month last spring, the Montreal shul raised $11,000, enough money to purchase a 750-litre firefighting trailer for the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. Farmers use them to extinguish blazes on their properties immediately, rather than wait until the fire department arrives on the scene.
At the time, missiles were landing daily and firefighters were having difficulty reaching them before they spread. Significant damage was done to crops, buildings and nature reserves, with close to 30,000 hectares scorched.
The first unit was sent to the town of Ibim, which is within 10 km of Gaza, said Judah Aspler, who spearheaded the campaign.
“This was really an important initiative,” said the Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem’s Rabbi Yechezkel Freundlich, “both for us, here in Montreal, to be able to actively do something that will make a difference, and I think even more importantly for the residents in the south in Israel, that they should know that we really do care about them and their welfare. I am very proud of our congregation for spearheading this project.”
Other Montreal synagogues soon joined in to sponsor a second trailer, which has been sent to the Sdot Negev Regional Council, also near the Gaza border.
There was $20,000 left over and that is going to support trauma therapy for residents affected by the attacks in the Sha’ar HaNegev region, which has seen a sharp increase in cases of psychological stress since last February.
That has only worsened with the more recent escalation that has seen the firing of Qassam rockets.
“Over the past weeks, the sense of security among Sha’ar Hanegev residents has begun to crumble,” the council’s resource development director, Tzeela Horenstein, wrote to the Montreal synagogue.
“We are beginning to see signs of behaviour and distress similar to those experienced in the wake of Operation Protective Edge (the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict), including over-alertness (even among the most resilient residents), stress, anxiety, restlessness and lack of tolerance and fear that we are facing another war.”
Therapy is offered free of charge to any resident of Sha’ar HaNegev who’s suffering from stress caused by the security situation.
“Last year was relatively quiet and still we had 180 applications for therapy. Since the beginning of 2018, the number of requests rose and almost doubled the usual number,” Horenstein wrote.
By the end of October, when more than 50 Qassam rockets and mortar shells had been directed at the area over one night alone, therapy services had received more than 300 applications.
“Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem and members of the Montreal Jewish community will continue to stand at our brothers’ and sisters’ sides during times of joy and their times of struggle and need,” said Aspler.
“We are in regular touch with regional leaders and friends and family who live in that area, sometimes communicating with them as they bunker down in shelters and share with us pictures and videos of what’s transpiring around them. We’ll keep looking to assist wherever we can, both financially and through moral support.”