Rainstorm in Judea, October 8 2014.
(photo credit: EITAN ADARI)
Judea and Samaria have been called the “Biblical Heartland of Israel” and the “Cradle of Jewish Civilization,” because this is where the history of the Jewish people began. Throughout the centuries, Judea and Samaria have been controlled by various countries and governments, yet Jews have always lived there, keeping our connection to the land vibrant and strong.
Today, this region provides Israel with a militarily defensible border and houses approximately 450,000 Israelis. While these nearly half a million Israelis are strong and proud to be living in the land of their ancestors, they often lack many necessary services, such as accessible health care, security, religious resources, and even educational facilities and playgrounds – the latter not always considered a necessity, but which are vital for the healthy development of children.
Due to this, I was heartened recently to learn about a nonprofit organization called One Israel Fund, which has been providing many of these necessities to the area’s residents for 25 years, keeping the Jewish people there safe, secure and healthy. The people living there need more services than the local government can afford to provide. But, because of the generosity of lovers of Israel from around the world, the fund has been able to address many of these scarcities and continues to do more.
One Israel Fund was officially founded in 1994, immediately following the signing of the Oslo Accords. Since then, it has tackled social, economic and humanitarian issues in the region, improving daily life for the thousands who choose to live there.
Safety is, of course, a key concern in Israel – especially in Judea and Samaria. The residents there face daily infiltration attempts by would-be terrorists. One Israel Fund currently has several ongoing projects aimed at keeping Israel’s residents safe in Judea and Samaria. For instance, there are command centers throughout the region which are used by emergency personnel to communicate with first responders and monitor situations in real time – whether it be a terrorist attack, a car crash or anything else that requires emergency assistance.
These centers are vital to resident safety, providing a meeting point for all agencies operating in the area, including the IDF. Yet many are in extreme disrepair, and some communities do not even have their own center. Security personnel in several communities in the region reached out to One Israel Fund, and now the nonprofit is raising funds to ensure these centers are properly equipped and maintained.
Of course, these command centers need to be able to communicate with emergency personnel in the field, which leads to another major initiative undertaken by One Israel Fund. Seeing the many communication issues in the area, the organization sponsored the mapping of communication deficiencies, and the subsequent purchase and installation of relay stations. This is being done in partnership with the Defense Ministry, which is also providing matching grants.
One Israel Fund also sponsors the installation of cameras throughout the region, which has proved time and again to save lives. They allow security personnel to see problem areas and address issues before they become tragedies. However, tragedy does still strike – and One Israel Fund has designed armored vests specially made for medics, allowing them to safely treat wounded people in the field.
But safety is more than just security from attack. I am reminded of a story about journalist Edward R. Murrow. During the London Blitz, he saw a fire truck race past and was confused. After all, it was the middle of the day, the bomb sirens hadn’t sounded and he had heard no bombers in the skies. But it slowly dawned on him that the fire truck was actually responding to an ordinary house fire. Similarly, in Judea and Samaria, even when facing the constant threat of attack, there are still personal emergencies.
One Israel Fund has funded fire trailers and updated fire equipment in the region to provide aid in the case of arson, forest fires or house fires. The organization is also working to ensure that residents have access to defibrillators – the vital lifesaving equipment found in many public places that are used when someone’s heart begins beating irregularly.
While a defibrillator can save someone’s life, that life can easily be lost in the hours afterward if the victim does not receive proper medical care. All too often, residents of Judea and Samaria are unable to reach proper medical care in a timely manner. Recognizing this, One Israel Fund aided in the creation a decade ago of the Efrat Medical Center in Gush Etzion, and is now working to build the Binyamin Medical Center. The center will provide outstanding medical services to more than 75,000 people in the region, who currently do not have convenient access to medical care.
While these may be some of One Israel Fund’s most vital contributions to the Israelis in Judah and Samaria, it does not stop there. The organization simply provides too much to list here. Learning about how challenging life in the “Biblical Heartland” of Israel can be, I am thrilled that One Israel Fund is there to support our Jewish brothers and sisters.The writer is a pro-Israel activist who writes frequently about Israel and Jewish culture.
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