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What's going on in New Orleans

Statement from the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans on Operation Protective Edge

A message from Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans Executive Director, Michael Weil


Gaza could be a paradise—that’s not so farfetched. The Gaza Strip has all it takes: fertile soil, a temperate climate and miles of gorgeous beaches. It is located strategically on the land route from North Africa and Egypt to the Middle East and Europe. Historically, Gaza City was a major port on the Mediterranean long before Jaffa or Haifa, and many empires fought over control of the port. 


Since before the Common Era, Gaza has passed through the control of numerous empires and nations, including the Philistines, the Assyrian Empire, Rome, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire and more. Gaza was a lucrative, desirable port. By the time it was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, Gaza was but a small village. From the early 19th-century, Gaza was culturally dominated by neighboring Egypt, populated by significant numbers of Egyptian Muslims.


Since 1917, Gaza has been absorbed into various entities, with an especially challenging relationship with Egypt at the forefront. When it became a client government for Egypt and later the United Arab Republic after the creation of Israel, Gaza’s residents were largely disenfranchised, lacking citizenship anywhere and languishing in refugee camps. Egypt held Gaza until the 1967 Six-Day War, when it was occupied by Israel.


Israel never wished to retain Gaza. Unlike the West Bank, Gaza was never considered to have any historic connections with the Jewish people. 21 Jewish settlements were established there for primarily economic reasons, and they flourished, making great innovations in agriculture and industry. Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005 and dismantled all of its settlements. The hope of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was that Gaza would use the infrastructure that Israel had created to develop the area successfully and peacefully. 

The election of Hamas to rule Gaza in 2006 put an end to those hopes for prosperity and peace. Today, Hamas rules the strip with an iron fist, choosing to invest mostly in weapons and using the vast dense population of 1.7 million people, now mostly Palestinians, as human battle fodder. For nearly a decade, Hamas has used the remnants of those Israeli settlements as bases from which to fire rockets into southern Israel.


From Israel’s perspective today, the issue is a simple one. Israel has tried to foster peaceful relations by supplying goods, services and electricity to Gaza.


Hamas chooses to use Gaza to act in bad faith. Israel has the right to defend itself and to take all actions to get rid of the rockets, the launchers and those responsible. While most of the rockets lobbed across the wall are crude and homemade, longer range rockets are imported from Iran and Syria through the tunnels from Egypt or by breaking through the Israeli naval blockade. The purpose of Hamas is clear and direct: to target indiscriminately against the civilian centers of Israel—Tel Aviv, Beersheba, Jerusalem and even Haifa— and to disrupt normal life in Israel.


Israel’s prime concern is to protect its citizens and its soldiers, but its secondary concern is to strike only at military targets and limit civilian casualties. In this respect, Israel is demonstrating compassion and a value for life. To assist in this effort, Israel has invested billions of dollars in developing the Iron Dome defense system, which boasts a 95% success rate. The country also offers a network of shelters that allows easy accessibility for all citizens when the sirens blare in warning.


There are no government-built shelters in Gaza. Hamas uses civilians for military purposes as human shields, hiding rockets launchers in mosques, and hospitals and even in an UNWRA school. They’ve even fired from a UN ambulance. Hamas has invested in a vast network of tunnels, fully equipped with lighting and electricity (some even large enough for small vehicles), all with the sole purpose of perpetrating surprise attacks on Israel. These tunnels are often more than a mile long, and buried 30 feet below the ground, rendering them impregnable except from the ground. An attempt by IDF uniformed terrorists through a tunnel near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha was thwarted on Saturday, and twice since.


Never in the annals of military history has an army warned citizens of an impending attack, much less requested them to leave through leaflets, phone calls or a “knock on the roof” gesture. The IDF does all of this. In return Hamas has threatened and bullied its population to stay at the risk of civilian lives. Twice Israel has held humanitarian unilateral cease fires to allow aid and responders but each time, Hamas has fired rockets during that time. The IDF has even established a field hospital just outside Gaza specifically for Gazans.


The rockets just continue. As of this morning, there have been 1,820 strikes over 14 days. That’s intolerable.


We stand by Israel. We stand by Israel’s right to attack and remove the rocket launchers and destroy the tunnels.


We mourn for the 18 Israeli families who have lost their solider sons fighting for a just cause.


Hamas must cease its attacks on Israel. It is painful to see the pictures of dead and wounded civilians in Gaza. But it is more painful to realize that Hamas alone is perpetuating this seemingly endless cycle of violence.


Please show your support for Israel by writing to the media and by contributing to the Jewish Federations of North America's campaign to Stop the Sirens.


I wish that Hamas, as the quasi-government currently in control of Gaza, would invest in its people’s welfare rather than in munitions and tunnels.


And yes—Gaza could still be paradise.



Leadership Development Endowment Campaign

The Lemann-Stern Leadership Development Program was begun in 1960 for the purpose of training outstanding young men and women in the Greater New Orleans Jewish community for positions of leadership. Participants in the program are selected from self-nominations or nominations made by past Lemann-Stern participants and community leaders. The program is two years in length and includes a mission to Israel, monthly meetings and a retreat.

2014 marks the 54th (triple chai) anniversary of leadership development programming in Greater New Orleans. Graduates of the program have served on the boards of every Jewish agency, synagogue and organization in our community, and have used the knowledge gained from the program to benefit the wider New Orleans community as well. The Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans invites you to join us in our efforts to endow the program through the Leadership Development Endowment Campaign. Our goal—with your help—is to raise $1.5 million to:

• Expand the current 8 day mission to a 9 day mission, allowing program participants an additional day on the ground in Israel
• Cover the cost of an overnight retreat – which includes intensive leadership training – at no cost to program participants
• Create subsidies for Jewish Federations of North America Young Leadership or Young
Adult conference attendees
• Fund programming and the cost of a leadership development facilitator

Chaired by Kathy Shepard and Jonny Lake, the Leadership Development Endowment Campaign offers a special opportunity to those impacted by Lemann-Stern. There is no minimum gift. Interested in learning more? Click here.

Click here to make a gift to the Leadership Development Endowment Campaign.
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GiveNOLA Roll of Honor

Susan and Lou Good

Michael Weil

Robert and Ruth Force

Michael Leikin

Shellie and Terry Jacobson

Brook Bissinger

Michael and Carey Sherman

David Dulitz

Matthew Abbrecht

Marion Freistadt

Ali Kardan

Eric Morson

Anna Labadie

Elliot Bain

George Dansker

Austin Marks

Tuua Ruutiaine

Stephanie Rubin

Jody and Gilbert Braunig

Edgar Stein

Brian Soileau

Shelly Tyler

Tim Lupin

Joshua Force

Judith Newman

Benjamin Swig

Allison Kushner

Brian Katz

Morton Katz

Seth Gursky

Igor Cherny

Arie Cohen

Katharine Dulitz

Rick Eisenstat

Melanie Fawer

David Hynes

Sarah Rubin

Rachael Kansas

Carol Merlin

Arianna Baseman

Ellen Cohen

Benjamin Dinehart

Lee Vorisek

Myron and Sharon Katz

Rebecca Radding

Bradley Bain

Jane Buchsbaum

Erin Friend

Ivy Cohen

Adriano Pacifici

Elizabeth Landesman

Sheldon Bernstein

Sanford Pailet

Jack Gross

Shellye Farber

Phyllis Loubier

Ann Leyens

Jack Zoller

Cynthia LeBreton

Charles Scher

Gail Pesses

Hope Meyer

Nicole Harvey

Rachel Bergman

Nathan Wexler

Alan Kansas

Daniel Checkman

Jaymi Baum

Jonathan Tebeleff

Richard Waitzer

Jack Pollack

Fran Dinehart

Rene Lehmann

Eddie Waitzer

Terri Waitzer

Josh Tarr

Mary and George Lillich

Michael Stern

Matt Tarr

Dot Levin

Eric Hamerman

Dana Shepard

Charisse and Mark Sands

Meredith Grabek

Judith Brown

Sherrie Goodman

Ruth Kullman

Larry Brook

Lisa Smith

Ronna Burger and Robert Berman

Gertrude Beerman

Sue Frank

Rachel Zoller

Steven Jacobson

David Fried

Stuart and Gail Chalew

Karen Weissbecker Remer

Frankie Wolff

Brenda Brasher

Felicia Kahn

Fran and Bob Simon

Lois Sutton

Loel Weil Samuel

Gary Zoller

Alan Franco

Ronna Burger

Myra Dunn

Susan Tart

Lawrence Lehmann

Robert and Valborg Gross

Sherri Tarr

Kris Khalil

Brian Katz

Ellen Yellin

Jeff Yellin

Daniel Forman

Maureen Stein

Patty Ungar

Ely Attman

Eileen Wallen

Ashley Merlin

Melanie Waitzer

Caitrin and David Gladow