Man returns from Israel, recounts his experience
SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (SNN) — A national organization, which also has a presence in Sarasota, has taken action to address the urgent needs created by the ongoing crisis in Israel.
Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF) has mobilized to raise funds and more to support Israel’s pressing needs.
Russel Robinson, CEO of JNF, wasn’t expecting his trip to Israel to turn out like this. He was on the plane when the attacks began.
“On the airplane ride over, I was going there for another meeting, obviously, and I started getting the texts and finding out that this terrible, without really knowing what it was, but knowing that there was some sort of major incursion, that was against Israel. So I had hours to be on an airplane, be receiving all this in real time and then trying to figure out what was going on and what could I do,” said Robinson.
As the death toll continued to rise, the crisis became personal for Robinson, losing a friend.
“One of them is a dear friend of mine, the mayor of Sha'ar HaNegev. Literally, on the airplane when I heard about it, I had texted him to say thinking about you. He had sent me a picture of hands praying. Thirty minutes later, he was reported as killed trying to save people in his settlement,” he said.
JNF has maintained a close partnership with the impacted communities for decades.
“JNF has tremendous contacts in Israel, and is very much monitoring the situation, giving in need and moving people out of those areas of southern Israel that have been particularly affected,” said co-president of JNF Sarasota Peter Kretzmer.
JNF is providing assistance with housing, transportation, bedding, hygiene kits for the displaced, protective equipment for communities and for reservists reporting for duty both in the south and in the north.
“Within 24 hours, we set up a situation room in Israel in that situation room, because we were on the ground, because we knew who they were, we were already set up to figure out what was going to be our next moves,” said Robinson.
In addition, they’re raising millions for immediate aid to the people of Israel.
“This is Israel’s 9/11 in terms of the scale, in terms of surprise. We are going to be raising $10 million in the next 30 days to ensure that we are able to. Meet the needs of the Israeli people at this time,” said JNF Director of Western Florida and Orlando Joshua Mellits.
JNF has also brought over firefighting equipment to manage the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza and protect homes and property.
Before the attack began, Robinson had different plans for his time in Israel.
“I was originally going because there was an event. I was selected as one of the 50 influential Jews from the Jerusalem Post,” he said.
The mission for his trip changed and he stepped into help save the lives of thousands.
“We have been able to come up with over 2000 places for people to go, 2000. We’ve evacuated over 8700 people from the Gaza envelope,” said Robinson.
Aside from helping Israelis with their current needs, JNF is also looking ahead to healing and recovery.
They aim to fund psychological treatment for those most affected along the Gaza border through their network of resilience centers and therapeutic facilities.
Click here to donate to JNF’s on-ground efforts.