Nov 15, 2019  By Eric Narrow  Category: Travel,

Sirens strengthen resolve of JNF missions in Israel: 'We are here 24/7'

Children from the Eshkol region staying in a bomb shelter all day.

This week, Israel woke to the unexpected sounds of sirens, from Be'er Sheva all the way to Tel Aviv, with early-morning commuters pulling off to the side of the road, school canceled, and parents told to stay home with their children, all before 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning.  

By the afternoon, as the sun hung low across the sparkling Mediterranean sea, local residents and tourists could be seen lounging on the beach, eating lunch along the many restaurants that line Tel Aviv's beach promenade, and getting ready for the next day. Within a matter of hours, life for most had seemed to return to a level of normalcy, all while the southern region of Israel continued to bear the brunt of the violence from Gaza.

Just last week, we broke ground on the new Eshkol Playschool Kingdom, a state-of-the-art educational campus that will provide a safe place for kids to learn and play, just a few miles away from the Gaza border. With schools throughout the Gaza Envelope closed all week, it this is a reminder, now more than ever, of the importance of JNF's work in planning for tomorrow.  
Amid the media reports and phone calls from concerned friends and family members living outside of Israel, a family celebrated moving into their new home in Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, in the heart of the Eshkol region. "The region is 99% heaven and just 1% hell," says JNF President Dr. Sol Lizerbram, echoing a common thought among residents of the region.  "What is happening now in Israel is like a disease, you can't ignore it, but you live around it.  You need to have the attitude that you will go on living and look towards the future. These people are the modern-day pioneers and they are on the front lines."
Dr. Sol Lizerbram planting seeds on the VIP Mission.
Sol has been in Israel for two weeks, now leading the JNF VIP Mission along with his wife, Lauren, and JNF CEO Russell Robinson. And they are in good company, as three other missions are simultaneously traveling the country, undeterred by the situation, but empowered by being here, and continuing to enjoy all Israel has to offer.  

Currently, between the Housing Development Fund, Sunshine Tour, Arts and Fashion Tour and VIP Mission, JNF partners from the United States are covering every corner of Israel, with a record of nine missions, encompassing hundreds of people, in Israel throughout the months. 

"We are here 24/7, 365 days a year, and we are continuing to support our family here in Israel," says Lauren Lizerbram, a sentiment shared by all JNF'ers currently in Israel. Some schedules had to be changed, but that didn't change our attitude and excitement to be in Israel this week. 
Overlooking the beautiful country by helicopter from Mitzpe Ramon to Kiryat Shemona, the up and coming culinary capital of Israel, the entire VIP Mission was quickly reminded what a beautifully diverse yet small country we call the Jewish state. "We were a little nervous when we first heard what was going on Tuesday morning, but we could not feel safer," says Carly Bartel from Denver, who is joining her aunt on her first JNF mission. “We’re just focusing on how people live their daily lives."
It may seem strange, but coming here and supporting the work we are doing each and every day is the best way we can support Israel. Overlooking the rapid construction on the newest homes in the Galilee, the Housing Development Fund Mission put everything into perspective. 

"There are those who seek to destroy and the JNF-USA answer is to build," said Rick Krosnick, JNF chief development officer, before traveling down to Sde Boker the following morning, knowing that our support and presence in Israel means more now than ever.

So what is the reality of life this week in Israel? It’s a weird duality of dealing with the very real situation along our southern border, but also striving toward normalcy, knowing JNF was here yesterday, is here today, and will continue to be here tomorrow.  

"When you come here, and you see the need, meet the people, feel their passion, and really understand what is going on in Israel, that’s when you get that you are a part of something big," says Steve Rosenfield from Paradise Valley, Arizona, as he gazes at the hundreds new housing units being built in the Upper Galilee. 

The strength of the attitude and positivity displayed by our partners currently traveling the country cannot be overstated. It's a symbol to all Israelis that Jewish National Fund is a true partner, through thick and thin, in our shared vision for the future.

Members of the VIP Mission meeting with Kiryat Shemona's mayor, Avichai Stern.