As the conflict in Israel continues, Jewish groups are focusing their efforts -- financial, spiritual, intellectual, personal and practical -- on ways to help Israel. The following list -- by no means comprehensive -- includes 10 things you can do to help Israel.
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- Write a Letter to a Family: Sometimes the personal touch is the most effective. The Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles has set up a way to send your letters in diplomatic packages that will go directly to families in shelters in the North. To participate, go to www.israeliconsulatela.org. Who knows? Maybe your letter will lead to a full correspondence!
- Send a Gift Basket to a Family: Nothing distracts a child more than candy or toys. The Web site www.israel-catalog.com is offering free delivery for care packages being sent to children in shelters. Prices for packages for 10-20 children begin at $19.95.
- Send a Gift Basket to a Soldier: The Israel Defense Forces recently called up 30,000 reservists, in addition to the thousands of 18- 21-year-olds serving their national duty. "Dash Cham," which means warm regards, is a web site specializing in sending gift baskets from the Diaspora to Israel.
"The IDF has told us that these programs have helped boost morale and provide helpful and wanted food and personal care products to the soldiers," says a notice on www.dashcham.com.
- Deliver a Pizza: A program popular during the second intifada is still going strong. Send a hot pizza to soldiers on the front line. For more information, go to pizzaidf.org.
- Send a Northerner to the South: For only $15 a day you can send one person to Efrat. Rabbi Joel Zeff, formerly of Westwood Kehilla, moved to Israel 12 years ago and is now involved in an effort to bring more than 300 people to the Ohr Torah institutions in Efrat, for food, clothing and housing in the school's dorms. Tax deductible donations can be sent to American Friends of Ohr Torah Stone, 49 W. 45th St., Suite 701, N.Y., N.Y. 10036. The memo line on the check should indicate "For Northern Refugees."
- Donate Money: Of course there are many places to send money to help Israel, but among those that will ensure that 100 percent of your donation goes directly to humanitarian needs is The Jewish Federation's Israel in Crisis Fund. The fund will provide kits for children in bomb shelters, summer camps and programs for displaced children, trauma and meal services for the elderly, assistance for the disabled, training for volunteers, psychological support, air-conditioning for bomb shelters and more. For more information, go to www.JewishLA.org or call 1-866-968-7333.
- Visit Israel: Tourism in Israel was set to be at an all-time high this summer and while some groups and individuals have cancelled trips because of fears about the conflict, many people are going as planned. Despite travel advisories, it's still possible to travel to Israel safely by remaining in the central region, Jerusalem and the South. There is nothing that puts a smile on an Israeli's face more than to see an American visitor.
Some groups are going on focused three- or four-day missions to help distribute food, toys and funds to victims of the war. Participants often also meet with politicians for briefings on the current situation and how to help. Right now, Sinai Temple and Stephen S. Wise are each taking delegations to Israel for three days; each has raised at least $1 million to distribute there.
Some local groups are proceeding with trips that were already planned, but are refocusing their design: StandWithUs.org, the pro-Israel advocacy organization, which has led the demonstrations and counter-demonstrations at the Israeli Consulate here, is currently on a 10-day mission to Israel. The National Republican Jewish Coalition is also taking a leadership group Aug. 6-14.
- Help the Blood Drive: Due to the violence, Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel's first-aid and emergency response organization, and the State of Israel are on high blood alert. The American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA)is asking for all U.S. citizens to donate money -- instead of blood -- to ensure that the IDF is able to care for all those wounded as the current conflict escalates.
"It is critical during this time that we support those victims of the recent violence," says Rabbi Daniel Allen, executive vice presidet of AFMDA. "In Israel, citizens are lining up to donate blood, but without this financial support, we risk not being able to process all potential donations."
MDA in Israel also needs funds for medical supplies, blood test kits, telecommunication devices, life-saving vehicles maintenance, as well as to support the increase in staff needed to work all hours, and more. Funding can be donated through www.afmda.org, or via their hotline, at (866) 632-2763.
- Spread the News: As the war progresses, much of the battle will be fought in the media. Some local activists are meeting in their homes to plan how to fight the battle in the media. Other organizations are posting articles about the situation. Knowledge is power: Read and disseminate articles and photographs to your community that support your position.
The Los Angeles Israeli Consulate has been briefing federations in the Western Region on the situation so that local members can call in to radio shows, write in to newspapers, and make their presence known.
There are also a number of Web campaigns being disseminated. StandWithUs urges the Red Cross to help free Gilad Shalit, by sending a letter, which can be found on their Web site www.standwithus.com.
- Pray and Study Torah: As much of the community gathered last week to rally for Israel, Orthodox synagogues around the city organized to say special psalms for the Jewish State. Throughout the nine days leading up to Tisha B'av, the fast of the ninth of Av on Thursday, the Orthodox Union synagogue members have been studying Torah to help the situation.
"We believe that such a major continuous spiritual effort will have a meritorious effect on the welfare of our fellow Jews in Israel at this critical time," said OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb.
OU President Stephen J. Savitsky added: "We are calling for massive involvement in Torah study, because this is one way in which we feel we can make a difference and demonstrate our concern."