The Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County’s connection to Israel has been strengthened – in words and deeds – as our leadership traveled to the state to witness the devastation of Hamas’ attacks.

During late November, a delegation of Federation’s senior leaders, including Board Chair Jill Rose and President and CEO Matt Levin, participated in a solidarity mission to bear witness to the unimaginable atrocities committed against the people of Israel on October 7, 2023, and to share our Federation’s strength and unwavering support with our Israeli brothers and sisters.

One of the most difficult visits was to Kibbutz Be’eri, where at least 130 people were killed by Hamas, including women, such as peace activist Vivian Silver, children, and infants. Hamas claimed the lives of 10 percent of the farming community’s residents. Dozens of homes and community buildings were also burned down.

“This was my 14th trip to Israel, and it was like no other Israel trip ever. To say it was a life-changing experience would be a gross understatement. Make no mistake about it – this is a modern Holocaust,” said Pratt. “We saw first-hand the devastation and absolute depravity of Hamas. They are not just murderers – they are savages, animals. Our visit to Kibbutz Be’eri, ground zero of the October 7th attacks will stay with me forever.

The group also experienced the tremendous and instantaneous civil response to the country’s immeasurable needs.  

From our sister community, Zichron Yaakov, hosting hundreds evacuees from the south and caring for their every need – housing, food, clothing, toys, childcare and more – to non-profit organizations and every day citizens providing hot meals, laundry services and respite to soldiers serving in the south.  Thousands of Israelis are filling in for foreign workers and IDF reservists, by volunteering on farms, food- packaging factories, small businesses, restaurants and much more.  National pride is strong and evident on every building and corner with flags, signs of unity, and confidence.  Israel’s civil society is the light in the deep darkness of the aftermath of October 7.

Chuck Lichtman, head of Federation’s Security Council, shared this on his Facebook page, while touring Israel’s hardest-hit regions on the mission:

“For all eleven of us, bearing witness is a moral responsibility, because we must and will convey the truth. Bearing witness requires that we educate as many people as possible about what we saw, documented and learned every day that we were in Israel. So, for some period of time, I will continue posting the different events we observed with their related stories for you to understand the gravity of how everyone in Israel was and remains impacted by the war. And it is clear, it will be this way for quite some time. To truly assure that these stories are spread far and wide, we ask for your help.”

As the war continues, an estimated 136 hostages remain in Gaza, the Israeli government told the Associated Press on Dec. 1. Each of their families is mired in concern, praying for a positive outcome to a terrifying situation. Federation is committed to advocating for their release, and has joined a chorus of global voices, demanding their freedom.

We are proud to lend our communal support and alliance to Israel, its residents, soldiers and aid workers, as it works to rebuild, heal, comfort and recover from the infamous attacks, while also waiting for those still abducted to be returned home.