The solidarity and mutual guarantee that characterize the Jewish people came out with flying colors during Operation Protective Edge. It was not only Israeli civilians who mobilized to support IDF soldiers, reservists and residents of the south, but also many Jews overseas who opened their hearts and pockets.
Along with the love and support packaged with children’s drawings and letters from the home front, huge donations were made from abroad. Reports estimate that millions of dollars were donated over the past month, mostly by private individuals from North America. Who knows where the donations will go, and where they went? The Israeli government must establish a philanthropic emergency headquarters during crises, in order to direct donations to the right causes and even to hold money in trust.
The philanthropic headquarters would consist of representatives of government, settlements, social organizations, businesses and the entities generating the donations. They would prioritize the donations and manage a fund for businesses that were harmed. Alternately, a public committee could be established to compile all of the compensation applications for business owners in the south and to evaluate them on a case-by- case basis.
In so doing, we would be able to monitor and control the donations, properly direct and efficiently utilize millions of dollars, while supporting the businesses in the south and helping them keep their heads up and survive without allocating state budget resources.
Every day we hear speculation about the tax hikes that will undoubtedly occur as the battles subside. On the other hand, tens of thousands of Diaspora Jews are offering us their money, waiting for us to take it.
Wartime is a time of emotional giving.
Every entity of corporate responsibility sent packages to the front and every social or medical organization harnessed the general openness for fundraising campaigns. They all found an indirect link to the war after realizing that there was a tsunami of donations during this time. The various organizations are also involved in subtle competition for the donors’ pockets: which is more relevant in times of need, who does more for society in Israel and is more deserving of the generous contribution from overseas.
Some of those donations did indeed reach those who need them most, including scholarships to reservists and students who volunteered instead of working and making money, or thousands of toys and games donated by Spin Master, which were transported from Canada to the children of the Gaza border communities on planes and trucks. However, in the absence of a philanthropic body to route the contributions and define their targets, donors abroad will continue to labor under the impression that the soldiers have nothing to eat or wear. After all, in times of war, the donations reach a “black hole” earmarked “War,” and the donors do not know where their money goes. They live with the impression that they are buying the IDF bullets and mortars, contributing to the war effort. Beyond the profound waste, this also damages Israel’s image. On the one hand, we have the Iron Dome and technology that is unrivaled anywhere around the world and, on the other hand it seems like we cannot feed and clothe our soldiers.
The opportunity at the government’s doorstep is limited in time. The philanthropic headquarters must be established now. It is important that we allocate this temporary abundance and the millions of donated dollars to a fund that benefits the impaired businesses.
It should be an audited fund that dictates priorities, determines the war needs during times of emergency and generates a detailed report to ensure transparency. Unlike the large businesses that regularly generate profits and set millions aside for tough times, the small and mid-sized businesses of the south are facing financial destruction.
The fairs held to promote sales of southern produce are indeed a first-rate act of solidarity, but the large sums generated by the fund proposed here are what will enable them to breathe.
The author is the president and CEO of the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University.