On the Ground in Israel: Two Stories

Damir meets with visitors in his home.
Damir meets with visitors in his home.

As the violence continues, despite our hopes for a ceasefire, JDC is continuing to address the needs of Israel's vulnerable at-risk children, youth, young adults and families, the region's elderly and those with disabilities.

We wanted to share with you two stories of our critical work on the ground.

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On July 30, some members of the Jewish Federations of North America Solidarity mission met with Damir, 35, who has been wheelchair-bound since his early twenties when he made aliyah from Belarus. He is one of 380 participants in JDC's Immigrants with Disabilities program and is himself volunteering in the Supportive Community for People with Disabilities network, providing his peers with emotional support.

Damir has a strong interest in computers and IT and has helped set up and improve online communication between members of the Supportive Community program.

There is no safe room in Damir's apartment, so during sirens, he and his mother stay in the only room in the apartment not facing the direction of the incoming missiles. His Supportive Community has benefited greatly from the two extra coordinators appointed by JDC, thanks to JFNA emergency support.

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The Solidarity mission participants also had the opportunity to meet Masha and her mother Oksana. Both are classified as 100 percent disabled — Oksana is completely paralyzed and bed- and wheelchair-bound, while Masha has uncontrolled epilepsy with unexpected seizures. She is her mother's primary caregiver, and they have lived in Israel for 14 years. For the first 12 years they lived in poor conditions, paying what little income they had in rent. Two years ago, they received housing from the Ministry of Absorption and now live in a modest building in a small apartment.

These days Masha and Oksana do not leave the house. They only have 45 seconds to get to a protected shelter when the missile siren sounds — not enough time to get Oksana into her wheelchair. She spends most days in a bright room in her hospital bed looking out a window where she can see the missiles fly by. Masha does not leave her mother's side — not even to stand in the hallway that is the protected area on their floor of the building.

They were so appreciative to receive visitors. One of the mission participants said the mission's main goal was to come and support the people of Israel during the situation, and he hoped they would somehow feel part of the global Jewish family. Masha was very moved and said thank you.

She also expressed her profound gratitude for the JDC Immigrants with Disabilities program that provides her and her mother with services and support that has helped them create a community of their own.

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We encourage you to stay up-to-date online and via social media with our Israel Crisis Dashboard, Facebook, and Twitter.

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