Witnessing a Changed Israel

This coming Sunday, I will be traveling to Israel alongside colleagues and community leaders from across Greater Washington. And while I have spent much of the last several months focused on Israel, I know that I am still unprepared.

When I went to Israel two weeks after the October 7th attack, I saw an Israel that was in distress. It was a country in mourning for the many people murdered; a country struggling to respond to the needs of the many citizens displaced in the north and south; and a country deeply frustrated by the lack of an effective government response. It was also a country recognizing the strength of its people to address the challenges ahead and recover from the horrific attack.

Four months later, I believe the situation is no simpler, and perhaps growing more complex by the day. The war with Hamas continues in an effort to rid Israel of the constant threat of terrorist attacks from Gaza. Over 130 hostages are still being held captive amid increasing questions about the potential outcomes of this war. Israelis from across the country are still displaced as security concerns at both borders increase. And a long-term solution towards peace for Israelis with the Palestinians is not any closer.

So, even while I expect to engage on many of the policy questions related to the above issues, that is not our core purpose. What I do expect is to have many difficult conversations with people to understand their struggles and perspectives.

How do we understand the trauma of October 7th and every day since then in Israel? What can be done and how do we support them in recovering from the ongoing horrors that they are facing? How do we thoughtfully and compassionately partner with Israel and Israelis at this incredible time of need and support their redevelopment over the coming years?

When I was in Israel soon after October 7th, several people said to me that the attacks changed Israel. That Israel of the first 75 years is gone and that we must now build the Israel of the next 75 years. Even while Israelis are still in the midst of a war with Hamas, they are beginning to address critical questions about the future. As American Jews, and as The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, we can and should be part of these conversations and efforts to build anew through close friendship and partnership.

I look forward to sharing what we learned with you upon our return. Thank you for playing a role in Israel’s present and future.

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