Israel Update, Tensions Rise with Iran, Hostage Rally. It’s Friday.

It’s Friday, and I have a new format for sharing my takeaways from this week.

One highlight for me was seeing the eclipse — did you? It really was spectacular. The fact that neighbors across the country found something to enjoy together — at least for a few moments — was fantastic. This shouldn’t be so unusual, but these days, sadly it is.

Photo courtesy of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum DC

I felt a similar togetherness last Sunday as I spoke at the rally at the Lincoln Memorial, demanding freedom for the hostages in Gaza — though there was nothing to smile about. I was haunted when Or Levy – the brother of hostage Michael Levy — said at the rally, “Every day is the worst day of our lives since October 7th. My life stopped there.”

Last, but not least, I am watching what is happening in Israel closely, especially given the heightened news about a potential attack from Iran.

This week, I will discuss the latest on the hostage negotiations, growing tensions with Iran, our visit with the head of Sheba Medical Center (one of Federation’s largest Israel emergency grantees), a peek into this year’s Good Deeds Week, and more.

Please let me know what you think of this format and what else you want to hear about. Many thanks.

Shabbat Shalom,
Gil Preuss, CEO
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

Israel Update, Tensions Rise with Iran, Hostage Rally. It’s Friday.

1. Israel Update.

  • As I write this, there are concerns that Hamas has rejected yet another proposal for a hostage deal and truce put forward by the US, together with Egyptian and Qatari negotiators. Israel had previously accepted the proposal.
  • On the humanitarian front, Israel has reiterated its promise to “flood Gaza with aid,” and this week the number of trucks bringing supplies each day have averaged over 400, with 500 trucks going in yesterday.
  • The concern over threats from Iran continue to grow, as I am sure you have seen from the news, with rockets from the Hezbollah on Israel in the North continuing. We are watching this very closely.

2. Six-Month Hostage Rally. Marking a Heartbreaking Six Months.

  • WORLDWIDE RALLIES. Marking the six months since October 7th, rallies were held across the globe to draw attention to the plight of the hostages. From Sydney to San Diego, with dozens in North America including in Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, New York, and Vancouver, diverse voices from across the political spectrum came together to speak out.
  • DC SPEAKS. Thousands gathered in our own backyard at the Lincoln Memorial in DC before a crowd young and old. I was honored to join as one of the speakers. My message was simple: “We are all here today to let you know that you must not carry this pain on your own.” You can listen to my full speech here.
  • HOSTAGE FAMILIES TURN UP THE HEAT. While rallies for the hostages happen every Saturday night in Israel, I noticed a shift in tone this week. The agonizing reality of the half-year mark brought outrage and urgency to the hostage family voices. Rachel Goldberg, one of the more prominent American hostage family members, read a poem she wrote at the NYC rally on Sunday. It is tough, full of truth, clarity, and power called “To The Boys in The Room.”

3. Sheba Medical Center: Israel Emergency Campaign Making an Impact.

  • AN ISRAEL EMERGENCY RESPONSE WIN. With nearly $8 million distributed through Federation’s Israel Emergency Crisis Fund, we’re seeing some incredible results, particularly on our immediate investments for urgent trauma response following October 7th.
  • TRAUMA RESPONSE AT SHEBA. Sheba Medical Center’s Director General, Professor Yitshak Kreiss, came to our community last week to express his deep appreciation for our community’s support, thanking our leadership for emergency funding that has helped nearly 1,500 people since the war began.
    • One incredible story Professor Kreiss shared was of one survivor of the attack who was critically burned, along with her husband. Miraculously, they protected their infant child from the attack.
    • After months of painful and difficult rehabilitation at Sheba, the mother, who is a medical intern, asked to be able to finish her internship at Sheba while she continues her rehabilitation there. She was just accepted to Sheba.

4. Pre-Passover Good Deeds.

  • FOOD PREP AND DELIVERY. I stopped by one of the dozens of events happening this week as part of this year’s Good Deeds Week. It was inspiring seeing groups of teams preparing Passover meals that will be delivered to elderly families who would otherwise not have a warm Passover meal. Projects are happening through this Sunday. You can participate and learn more on our website.
    • Thousands of volunteers – including lots and lots of kids.
    • 45+ organizations participated.
    • 60+ projects.
    • 40+ benefiting organizations.
    • 1 remarkable week of impact! I am incredibly proud.

5. Argentina and Uruguay Wrap-Up.

  • ONE LAST STORY. On the last day of our trip, we visited the Maccabi JCC in Buenos Aires — what an incredible place. The number of families and the thousands of people coming together every week for Judaism, Israel, sports, music, leadership, friendship, and joy was truly inspirational. It was a model that all trip participants took back as we returned to our home community the following day.

My SNEAK PEEK for next week.

  • At my house, we will be deep into Pesach preparation while contemplating how to integrate the October 7th hostage story into the Passover account message of redemption from slavery. I just ordered a new Haggadah written by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum.
  • Lastly, I’m keeping an eye out for the release of Sheryl Sandberg’s new documentary, Screams Before Silence, on the sexual atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7th. It’s due out sometime this month and I am sure it will be very important to see.