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Hundreds pledge moral, financial support

by Amy Kingsley

Close to 800 people gathered at Temple Emanuel on Aug. 24 for the “We Stand With Israel” rally, an event intended to inspire Greensboro residents to donate $1 million to rebuild northern Israel.

The Stand with Israel Committee, a division of the Greensboro Jewish Federation, organized the event as part of a national fundraising drive by United Jewish Communities to raise a total of $500 million in aid. Marilyn Chandler, executive director of the Greensboro Jewish Federation, said attendees donated a total of $350,000 on the night of the rally. Rabbis from three local synagogues, Temple Emanuel, Beth David and B’nai Israel, offered prayers and support for the tiny Middle Eastern nation. Israelis and recent visitors to the country shared their experiences during the war.

The war between Israel and Lebanon started on July 12 after Hezbollah fighters crossed the border into Israel and captured two soldiers, killing three in the process. Israel responded with airstrikes, naval and air blockades and a ground offensive. The conflict lasted 34 days before the UN brokered a ceasefire on Aug. 14. Both countries suffered billions of dollars in economic losses and at least 157 Israelis and 1,110 Lebanese died in the conflict, according to the New York Times. Both sides have been accused of targeting civilians and infrastructure.

“The United States just pledged $230 million to rebuild Lebanon,” said Rabbi Fred Guttman of Temple Emanuel. “There is an international effort to make the reconstruction and rebuilding of Lebanon a priority. No one has pledged one penny, not one shekel to rebuild Israel.”

Money to rebuild the towns of northern Israel damaged most heavily by Hezbollah rockets will come from members of the Jewish community around the globe, Guttman said. He urged the audience to answer “Hineni”, or “Here I am,” to Israeli requests for aid, a phrase that originated in the Book of Isaiah.

“When money is needed, we will answer,” he said.

Kathy Manning, the chair elect of the National Jewish Communities executive committee, was flying to Israel when hostilities erupted. She visited bomb shelters in the Israeli town of Nahariya and met citizens displaced by the rocket attacks from Lebanon.

“I can’t even describe what [the bomb shelter] feels like,” Manning said. “All I can tell you is that when we walked in we were hit by a wall of hot, stale air and an odor that was overwhelming.”

She and the other committee members from National Jewish Communities approved $2 million to pay for camps in the center of the country where the children from the north could relocate. Manning said that more money would be needed to rebuild cities and resettle families displaced during the conflict.

“There is only one thing we know for certain,” she said. “The costs will be enormous.”

Yechiel Gilo, a former Greensboro resident who now lives in Amuka, Israel with his wife and three daughters, spoke about the impact of the war on his family. During the conflict he had to constantly extinguish fires in the forest surrounding his house, he said. Two rockets landed within 20 feet of the family home, he added.

Gilo’s oldest daughter serves in the Israel Defense Forces and lost friends in the conflict. His second daughter will be joining the army later this year.

“In 1948 [my father] had to fight in the Independence War,” Gilo said. “He raised up his three sons with the hope that we would live in peace. I had to fight in Lebanon in the 1970s, and I also raised my three daughters with the hope they would live in peace. I hope now that my three daughters will be part of the last generation in Israel to live in such tragic times.”

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at amy@yesweekly.com

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