By Susan Farber (Sponsored)
Although I have always been VERY pro-Israel, I never was involved with JNF; I thought they were the “tree people”… that all changed the summer of 2014, when Israel was under missile attack by Hamas. JNF organized a special “Solidarity Mission” in less than 8 days. When I heard about it, I signed up. In 5 days, I was on my way to join 25 people from all over the U.S. who dropped everything to show support for Israel. We met with mayors, Ministers from the Department of Tourism. We traveled to communities that were hardest hit by the missiles: Halutza, Sderot, Beer Sheva, Eshkol Region, etc.
I learned quickly the sirens that warned us of incoming missiles were there to protect us, not scare us. I spent a lot of time in bomb shelters as we toured the area. It became apparent to me what life is like in a war zone; children cannot play outdoors, people slept in their bomb shelters, mothers could not take their children to shop (what if the sirens went off?). These innocent mothers and children were being held prisoner through no fault other than living in these communities.
I came back from the trip, told my husband that I wanted to retire from my professional position of administrator of his medical practice and volunteer for JNF. I had run his practice for 25 years, and had run a lab before that. I just felt that my passion could bring a better quality of life for Israelis; particularly those that lived in the Southern part of Israel. I joined the Arizona Board of Directors, joined the Sapphire Society and joined a Task Force. As of this summer, I have joined the prestigious Makor Group – this is a national group of JNF volunteers that are available to speak at various events and help other communities fundraise for JNF.
About a year ago, I joined the Gaza Envelope Task Force. It was a new task force that supports projects in the very communities I visited during the Solidarity Mission of 2014. Last March, we visited all these communities, met with mayors and kibbutz leaders and college presidents to learn what JNF could partner with the enhance the quality of life when living so close to the border of Gaza. Some asked for sheltered buildings; buildings that are bomb safe and considered a bomb shelter. The mayor of Sderot asked for more dorm rooms for college students. Life in the Negev is blooming; people are moving there, in spite of the danger of Gaza. The pioneer spirit is alive and well in this region.
So not only do I see the actual work done by JNF when I travel with my Task Force, I help decide which projects we will fund. I can designate my donation directly to this project. I also am motivated to fundraise for it as I see the development and results. Nothing gave me more pleasure than seeing a community in Halutza grow in size and activity from when I saw it the summer of 2014, and then again in March 2016.
There are many Task Forces with different areas of development. I suggest that if one has a particular interest (ie. special needs, making aliyah) ask about Task Forces that cover that interest. I am happy to discuss any of the Task Forces or JNF projects with anyone who is interested.
To find out more about Task Forces, contact the JNF Office at 480.447.8100. And please join us next Wednesday for more inspiring stories at the JNF Women for Israel Luncheon (details below).