Jul 6, 2021  By Sara Hefez  Category: Blueprint Negev,

JNF-USA partners: There for Israel yesterday, today, and tomorrow

Never underestimate the positive impact of Jewish National Fund-USA. Fifteen years ago our donors visited Sderot, a city in southern Israel under siege from rockets, and decided we needed to help the children and their parents find moments of respite. We retrofitted an old factory into a secure indoor recreation center that has brought joy and smiles to the faces of Israelis for a decade and a half. But I bet you knew that.

On one day alone last week (Thursday 5/13) there were 60 fires set in the Gaza Envelope. While firefighters worked to protect Israel's citizens, volunteer fire fighters like you and me donned their uniforms, which JNF-USA donors supplied. Each of these heroes rushed toward danger to save their neighbors' farms, livelihoods, and homes. Working together to protect the land of Israel. But I bet you knew that too.

Two decades ago the leadership of JNF-USA realized one of our most valuable assets was collaboration, so we established relationships in the south and the north to get people talking and work together. The beautiful visitors' center in Akko was a shining example. Tourist and locals could come and learn about the region's best wineries, artisans, and restaurants. Due to riots in Akko, the site suffered damage last week as well, sadly. We will rebuild. But I bet you knew that.

A society can be measured by how it cares for its weakest. No other organization does more for ALL of Israel's citizens with special needs – from equine therapy to rehabilitative villages for the most severe cases to nature experiences for those with disabilities. I bet you knew that too.

The next generation doesn't participate in philanthropy the same way their parents, and their grandparents, did. We need to find experiential opportunities for them to see and do things firsthand. JNF-USA has robust options for students of all ages, both in Israel and state-side. We are building the largest Jewish educational complex in the world – a groundbreaking $350 million Zionist village. But I bet you knew that.

We are reclaiming the word Zionism with our "This is Zionism" campaign. Zionism comes in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Thousands have added their photo to the campaign, and shared it on social media, showing the world how inclusive, diverse, beautiful, and respectful Zionism is. But I bet you already added your image.

The residents of the south need our help right now. Specifically, 358 rockets landed in Israel's Eshkol region last Friday, May 14, 18 of them causing damage. The children there don't suffer from PTSD, because the trauma is current. They call it CPTSD, and it is debilitating. JNF-USA supports these children, and their parents, with our Resilience Center in Eshkol providing much-needed therapy. We are also building a Children's Kingdom complete with an indoor play space with a three-story climbing tree. I bet the fact that JNF-USA donors are supporting this important, life-changing work doesn’t surprise you at all.

Jewish National Fund-USA – we aren't just the tree people. We are so much more. We were there yesterday, we are there today, and we will be there tomorrow. But I bet you knew that.

Author, Sara Hefez, is Jewish National Fund-USA's Executive Director, New England & the Capital District.