7th October: A Six-Month Update

On 7 October, everything changed in Israel. The certainties that many Israelis had felt building up in recent years evaporated in the space of a few hours.

Six months on, one thing has not changed: UJIA is here, standing together with Israel and its people, as we always have.

Within 24 hours of the attacks of 7 October, UJIA launched our emergency campaign to support those affected. Thanks to our longstanding connections to partners on the ground, we were able to identify immediately where funds were most needed.

To date, we have provided over £3.3m in support for more than 30 vital projects and have now committed a further £1.6m to help vulnerable communities in the South and North recover over the coming months.


Ziv’s story

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On the morning of 7 October, Ziv Aviv went to the kibbutz gate to do a security check. He was the military security coordinator for Kibbutz Gevim, near the Gaza border, and this was part of his usual Saturday-morning routine.

As he was standing alone behind the entrance gate, a white pickup truck approached and dozens of terrorists emerged from it.

Ziv fought them in a heroic solo gunfire battle. “Throughout the fighting, I prayed to God,” he says. “I had one goal in my mind: my duty to protect my 11-month-old grandson, who was sleeping in his home on the kibbutz.”

The 56 year old singlehandedly held off the terrorists, until the alert squad arrived to join the fight. Though he was hit by two shots in the legs, shattering his knees, he successfully prevented the terrorists from entering the kibbutz – thus saving all the residents.

Ziv now has to undergo rigorous rehabilitation work on his legs twice a week, which he says helps him both physically and emotionally, “because the attack was devastating” but it interrupts his work.

As part of his rehabilitation, Ziv received an immediate grant through our partners at the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and their Fund for the Victims of Terror (FVOT). He also received a grant for an exercise bike, customised to his disability, that will help him on his journey to recovery. FVOT will continue to support Ziv over the next three years.

The support made available to Ziv was made possible due to UJIA’s support of JAFI and the FVOT.


Mika and Galia’s story

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Mika and Galia did not expect their new school would care what they did while they were there.

The two teenagers were evacuated from Kibbutz Erez to the desert town of Mitzpe Ramon on 8 October. More than 16,000 children and young people have been displaced since 7 October, away from their schools, their playgrounds and everything that was familiar to them.

Along with other students from their kibbutz, Mika and Galia enrolled in one of the additional classes set up by our partners on the ground, to allow displaced children to be educated in an existing high school.

“It’s hard to go to school during a war,” Mika and Galia said, in a speech to the school community. “I thought I was going to come to a school that wouldn’t expect me, as an evacuee, to invest a lot, and that would let me do whatever I wanted.

“But we felt that the teachers understood us and didn’t treat us as poor pitied evacuees. We felt we belonged – which is a feeling we did not expect to have here.”

They added that their teacher, Noa, helped them to adjust: they were able to approach her for anything, knowing that she would support them with sensitivity.

“We had to leave our kibbutz and live in a place far from everything we know and everything we’re used to,” Mika and Galia said. “It’s hard to imagine what we would have done without this unique school.”

UJIA’s funding was vital in setting up and running pop-up schools


Batya’s story

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On 7 October, Batya* thought her baby was going to die.

Batya’s 15-month-old daughter suffers from a rare genetic malformity of the brain that requires daily medication. But on 7 October, all the clinics in Ashkelon, where Batya lives with her husband and five children, suddenly closed.

13 kilometres from the Gaza border, Ashkelon was being pounded by heavy rocket fire. But all 34-year-old Batya could think about was the need to find the medicine that would keep her baby alive.

Eventually, she found a hospital in northern Tel Aviv that could supply her with her daughter’s medication. While the rocket attacks continued, she and her family left their home and travelled to Tel Aviv, and the seven of them moved into a one-bedroom apartment near the hospital.

In Tel Aviv, the family had nothing. As well as taking care of her daughter, Batya also had to occupy and educate her four older children. “Household expenses – all the loans and cuts. It’s truly not an easy time for any of us,” she said.

They were therefore reliant on volunteers from Pitchon Lev who – with a grant from UJIA – delivered essential supplies, including food baskets, baby formula, nappies and baby wipes.

This support continues today, alleviating the financial burden that Batya and her family would otherwise be carrying. The support given to her by Pitchon-Lev and UJIA, she says, has helped her to feel hopeful about the future again.

*Not her real name


Food, water and baby supplies

UJIA provided evacuee families with immediate basic needs, working with the SAHI volunteer network to deliver food, water and hygiene supplies. Our support helped our partners to distribute baby bundles, containing nappies, bottles, toys, dummies and formula, to evacuated families.


Trauma and psychosocial support

UJIA has been working with partners to deliver more than 6,000 sessions with trained emergency therapists to 7 October survivors. We have also funded psychological support for thousands of families whose loved ones were abducted to Gaza, or who have suffered bereavement or injury.

We have funded interventions targeted at specific groups. The Healing Place programme offers vital support for more than 5,000 survivors of the Nova music festival attacks. A hundred IDF soldiers will receive mental-health assistance over the next six months. And we have funded a “doll therapy” programme for children between the ages of three and nine from frontline communities.


Children’s activities

Support from UJIA has helped to establish daycare facilities, and equipped playrooms for evacuee families in three hotels. Our grantees provide entertainment and enrichment activities for displaced children, in an effort to create a desperately needed sense of normality. And we have provided children from Bedouin communities with workbooks and games.


Volunteers

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Photo by Blake Ezra at the site of the Nova festival during a UJIA mission

Many Israeli farmers were drafted into the reserves following 7 October, or were unable to employ their usual farmhands. UJIA and Birthright Israel teamed up to offer a two-week volunteering programme for 60 young British Jews between the ages of 20 and 40. Run in December and again in January, the programme recruited volunteers to harvest, sort and pack fruit and other agricultural produce.




None of this would have been possible without the rapid and generous support of our donors. But our work does not end here.

In the immediate aftermath of 7 October, we focused on addressing the vital needs of survivors and their families. Now, six months on, we are looking at where funds will be needed in the medium and longer term.

We are already planning how we can support recovery and reconstruction – with diligence, focus and care.

Israel may have changed irrevocably, but we want to make sure that the country that emerges from the ashes of 7 October is even stronger and more resilient than before.

Now more than ever, Israel needs our support. Donate below: