Since the horrific events of October 7th, many NIF partners have mobilized to help the residents of Israel’s south. The Tzedek Centers is one of the groups providing essential humanitarian services — and thanks to the generosity of NIFC donors, NIFC was able to issue emergency funding to the Tzedek Centers to do this important work.
Tzedek Centers is an outgrowth of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement that has 6,000 local activists based in 8 current centers across Israel and especially in the south – and it operates in partnership with Ajyal, a peer Palestinian youth movement in Israel with over 5,000 members and 35 chapters. Right now, this impressive volunteer network is providing necessary aid for communities evacuated to Eilat and elsewhere, as well as communities still under rocket fire in Ashkelon and Be’er Sheva.
As Bar Kolodny, Partnership Director for the Tzedek Centres said this week: “Your support is incredibly moving, and provides us with a lot of light and hope in these difficult times.” That’s why we want to relay a few examples of what Bar and her team have been up to, working to respond to this massive need during this urgent period over the past two weeks.
This picture shows how the Tzedek Centers were able to develop a placement center that is operated by 200+ volunteers and managed out of their headquarters in Binyamina. They alone have already been contacted by nearly 7,000 families needing or offering accommodation. Thanks to their tireless efforts, over 1,500 families have already been placed with hosts and they’re continuing to work on this urgent matter.
In addition to this, the Tzedek Centers have established a pilot program that works with the families who have already been evacuated from the south to provide welfare, legal advice, support filling out forms, volunteering and housing. The goal is to make existing information available to those that need it through 20 volunteers who are conducting a pilot program supporting the first 200 families who were evacuated in the region.
Finally, a total of approximately 4,000 evacuees are now receiving educational and therapeutic support in the communities of the evacuees, at the various sites operated by 200 volunteers and the movement’s educators. In the southern cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Beer Sheva, 300 of the movement’s educators operate educational activities in shelters to help the communities of 3,000 residents in these cities.
Earlier this month, the Rehovot Nachshonim House Coordinator Gabi shared her reflections:
There are sirens, not a lot compared to other places, but there is a lot of fear. Many of the kids are afraid to come to activities and don’t leave their homes; they constantly watch the news on their phones. This week was the first time there was also a rocket hit. On the first day we brought them to the shelter, we prepared activities, but in the end, we didn’t get to them because they were just so happy to meet, to be together outside the house, and to tell each other about what had happened. Some of the time, they forget about it and just dance on TikTok. We suggest that they ask us questions they have so they can get information from us. We also meet the younger brothers and sisters, and the parents. They keep asking if it will be open tomorrow too, and that’s really significant.
We do the activities in a shelter that is 30 metres from the Nachshonim house. When there is a siren, many people come, and some families just sleep in the shelter. The time between sirens is just us with the kids and the teenagers. We spend time with them, calming them down. Two of the permanent staff members at the Nachshonim house were drafted into the military, so we reinforced Nachshonim’s team with Hashomer Hatzair (youth movement) staff. We make sure to accompany the girls from home to the activities and return them at the end of the day. This allows us to reach their homes, even those we didn’t know before. It’s something small that excited me a lot, to see where they live, to meet their extended family.
In most houses in the Kiryat Moshe neighbourhood, there are no shelters or safe rooms, so the parents are much calmer knowing their daughters are safe with us. These are large families, sometimes with 8 children, and when they’re all closed in the house, it’s hard. There’s a concern that if they have to get to the shelter with all the children by themselves, they won’t make it. We received a lot of positive feedback from the parents; they really appreciate that we take care of them and the little children as well.
This is just one example of some of the amazing work being done by NIF partners in Israel right now — work which we at NIFC are extremely proud to support.