With 2023 drawing to a close, it is clear that since October 7th, our lives are not the same. I wish I could be the one bearing good news for 2024. But the end of the war does not seem to be on the horizon, the situation on Israel’s northern border is escalating every day and I am afraid that is without mentioning other pressing challenges.
As difficult and painful as it is to write this, daily life is Israel and in Jerusalem has found a new routine – a war routine. Jerusalem’s economy is stuttering and life is far from normal. The issue of continued shared living in Jerusalem is challenging and everyone’s wounds are still raw. And in the midst of this darkness, it is difficult to see light at the end of the tunnel. Especially because of this mood, it would be a sin not to write Stories from Jerusalem and bring something positive into this difficult atmosphere.
Since the outbreak of war, these past months are full of stories, each one more touching than the next. The Jerusalem Foundation’s emergency programs across Jerusalem, made possible through our emergency fund, have indeed generated a whole mosaic of stories and no story stands alone.
About whom and what should I tell?
Should I tell you about the principal of the Jerusalem school who came out of her recent retirement to set up and run a makeshift school for young evacuees from Sederot (in the south) and Shlomi (in the north)? Her pupils have been living for nearly three months in cramped hotel rooms, without a proper educational framework. In adverse conditions, she has succeeded in creating a fantastic school and study environment and bringing together everyone – the children, their parents, new teachers and volunteers.
Should I tell you about the Holocaust survivors – for whom talk about the ‘new Holocaust’ reopens old traumas – who were concerned for their fellow survivors and who overcame their fears and loneliness to venture out? Gaining a much-needed respite from their woes and a cultural and social boost, they attend Café Europa’s renewed regular club activities, and enjoyed a marvelous concert at the Jerusalem Music Center by the Young Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Should I tell you about the high-school students of Jerusalem’s Keshet School, some of whom have special needs, who set up a kitchen in their school parking lot and who cook hundreds of meals every single day for Jerusalem’s soldiers, families of reservists and needy families?
Should I tell you about the dedicated medical teams in Jerusalem’s hospitals who have been working tirelessly around the clock since October 7th? They are treating those wounded in battle on Israel’s southern and northern fronts and that is in addition, of course, to the ‘regular’ hospital patients. The Jerusalem Foundation, together with members of the “Cultural Movement” organization, ensured that these medical teams could continue their work around the clock, by providing their children with a special program, safe hands, and a social and educational framework, at the outbreak of war when schools were still closed. For the children whose parents are both physicians and work long hours outside the home, this aid was particularly crucial.
Should I tell you about the youth and young adults with severe (up to 100%) disabilities who, with the outbreak of war, had to vacate their ‘second home’ – the Tsad Kadima Center for Active Living – because the Center has no bomb shelter? Within a few hours, the Jerusalem Foundation found and rented an alternative location (with an accessible shelter) for Tsad Kadima to continue its daily activities in education, technology, sports, arts, healing and social and professional skill development.
Should I tell you about Jerusalem’s idealistic young SAHI volunteers who connected with the teenage evacuees staying in the city and recruited them into their voluntary war-time aid for Jerusalem’s needy families? These evacuees, despite their circumstances, have become givers instead of recipients of aid, gained new friends and are contributing to the city which is their home, at least for now.
Should I tell you about the 50,000+ people (mainly youngsters) who have benefitted from Double Impact, enjoying a vast array of free activities throughout Jerusalem? Through Double Impact, evacuees and Jerusalemites alike are guests of a long list of Jerusalem’s cultural, artistic, sport and recreational institutions. Not only do they benefit from a few hours of respite and informal education. The institutions themselves – renowned and popular before the war but now facing an economic crisis – have received a crucial breath of new life.
These stories are simply a snapshot of life from within Israel’s incredible civil society and the unique Israeli spirit. Thousands of volunteers, through thousands of initiatives, are a reason for hope and a beacon of light during this very bleak period. The Jerusalem Foundation has made this possible with your help, and their stories are a source of pride in these painful, gloomy days that may sadly be with us for a long time.
We are also engaged in plans for ‘the day after’ with our goal to find ways to rebuild shared living and develop young civil society leadership in Jerusalem. Our work in these fields is sustaining us and providing us with renewed energies to continue our mission.
So, with a heavy heart for all that has happened and is happening and with the understanding that difficult times still lie ahead, I did want to share some hope and also wish you all a Happy 2024. The new year may be challenging but we are striving and hoping that it will bring quieter and better days very soon.
Wishing us all a good, hopefully better 2024.
Jerusalem Foundation President