Standing on the border with Gaza

Kristen Cullen, our Grantmaking and Evaluation Manager, experienced several emotional moments during her trip to Israel at the beginning of November—but none more than her visit to southern Israel, near the border with Gaza. Here, her thoughts two weeks later, while grappling with the news of rockets from Gaza.

Our soldier guide

Our soldier guide

There are moments from my trip to Israel that I’ll never forget—from feeling the spiritual energy as Jews from all over the world welcomed Shabbat together at the Western Wall, to gently holding an elderly Holocaust survivor’s hand as he described his loneliness—but I can’t stop thinking about how it felt standing in southern Israel, near the border with Gaza.
 
My trip to Israel was part of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s mission for Federation Professionals, and on our second day, we took a bus to the Black Arrow Memorial Site, where an IDF soldier helped us see the realities Israelis face every day. 

I asked a question I think all of us were thinking: what would happen if a rocket headed this way right now? The soldier ran through the protocol nonchalantly, as if this kind of thing happens all the time.
 
Because it does.
 
And then it did again. Earlier this week, as more than 400 rockets rained down on Israel from Gaza, terrorists intentionally fired an anti-tank missile directly at a civilian bus right where my group—and our bus—had been standing, two weeks earlier. It was the terrible moment I pictured while standing at the memorial, looking not very far into the distance at the two trees that marked the border with Gaza.  
 
On my trip, we met a recipient of the Fund for Victims of Terror, which is supported by Federation funds. Since the escalation this week, at least 17 people received emergency grants within 24 hours of being injured or losing their homes. According to the soldier I spoke to, “there’s no end in sight.” This fund is so important.
 
Even in periods of relative calm, the Jewish Agency for Israel is supporting people through the lasting effects of terrorism. On our trip, we learned about a new camp that offers stability and support to children with PTSD during the unstructured days of summer that can be so hard for these kids who struggle with constant nightmares and paralyzing hypervigilance.
 
When I stood with that soldier near the Gaza border, I found myself thinking of the so very many people who live with this threat every day. It was humbling. Today, I feel lucky— and not just because the rocket didn’t hit our bus. I feel lucky to work at an organization that is constantly supporting Israelis, helping them to endure this horrifying reality and to build better lives.

Shabbat Shalom,

Kristen Cullen
Grantmaking and Evaluation Manager

Daci Plattisrael, mjf team