Israeli authorities warned residents of areas bordering the Gaza Strip to keep within 15 seconds access of shelters.
Another rocket warning siren wails and eight members of the Levi family, including a grandmother and a newborn, quickly cram into the small bedroom made of reinforced concrete that serves as the family's bomb shelter. "Come on, come on! Get in!" they shout. Just before the metal door thuds shut, the family dog, Pick, is whisked inside.
I was partnered with a woman who, before she even really met me, thanked me for just showing up as a volunteer. She was homeless in San Francisco and felt that she had nowhere to turn before she found Project Homeless Connect. As I walked her to the housing information stand, she displayed thorough delight that somebody was beside her to hear all that she had to say. It seemed as if very few people, or none, had bothered to listen to her full story.
Every night on Skid Row, 5,000 people pile onto shelter cots or erect their flimsy huts in the concrete desert of the city. Another 9,000 go to bed in the area's residency hotels, hoping to still have a roof over their heads the next day. In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, year-round they share their sukkot with each other and remind us that we have failed to do the same for them.
It was hard to be in Los Angeles in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, perhaps the biggest natural disaster in our history. I had some previous Red Cross training, and, with some additional fast-track prep on disaster response, I was on my way to Louisiana -- first by plane to Houston, then by car to Baton Rouge.
Lodging on one of the first nights was the floor of a church gymnasium. At times, I felt like I was part of a sad "Amazing Race," hurrying throughout Louisiana to provide some assistance to some of Katrina's victims.
If someone had turned on the radio in Mulukuku, Nicaragua, on May 28, 2005, they would have heard "Hatikvah," the Israeli national anthem. There is no Jewish community in this village of 7,000. In fact, there is not normally even a single Jew. But for one week at the end of May, there were 14 of us.
Our group was in the most impoverished region of Nicaragua as part of a joint project between The Jewish Federation and American Jewish World Service. The goal: to help alleviate poverty, hunger and disease among all the people of the world. It was an imperative that I took very seriously, and one that compelled me to step out of my Los Angeles life of privilege and material comfort into a world where those two terms are largely devoid of meaning.
Over 30,000 people have been brutally murdered in the Darfur region of Sudan. At least 120,000 are living in tent camps, now being hammered by rains that turn the dust to mud. Diseases that thrive in the soggy ground continue, along with malnutrition, to drive the body count higher.