From discounted hotel stays and free plays to emotional distress hotlines and tips for pregnant women, Israel extends solidarity and aid.
By Naama Barak, ISRAEL21c
With the advance of Operation Shield and Arrow in the Gaza Strip and the barrages of rockets attempting to strike major Israeli cities, Israeli individuals and civil society organizations are coming to the aid of fellow citizens’ needs – whether in terms of accommodation, mental health assistance or public support.
As is often the case when rockets hit the south of the country, Israelis further north open their homes to southern residents to offer respite and a safe night’s sleep.
Kibbutz Gesher near the Sea of Galilee, is hosting people from kibbutzim near the Gaza border, having already done so in previous rounds of fighting. Residents of the Gush Etzion regional council have also publicly reached out to southern residents, inviting them to their homes.
Numerous hotel chains are offering southern residents overnight stays at discounted rates across the country. Among these are the Brown Hotels in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Eilat; the Selina chain of resorts; the Crowne Plaza and Vert hotels; and even the super-deluxe Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem. The Metropolitan Hotel in Tel Aviv is offering southern residents a completely free stay.
Further up north, the Kinneret Cities Association is inviting Gaza-border residents to camp for free in a number of beaches along the Sea of Galilee. The KKL-JNF field centers in numerous locations bused southern residents to shelter in their facilities, which are now filled with families enjoying free activities.
Multiple heritage sites and cultural centers are inviting southern residents to take a break and enjoy museums, plays and tours. These include free shows at Habima and Cameri theaters in Tel Aviv, the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens and the Agamon-Hula nature reserve.
Help lines geared at aiding those in distress from the security situation have also been encouraging people to contact them for emotional support. ERAN, which provides emotional first aid services, is available for all those in need of support in an array of languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, English, Russian, Amharic, French and Spanish.
The Center for International Migration and Integration, in cooperation with the Population and Immigration Authority, is urging foreign workers in the Gaza border region to get in touch in case they need assistance.
The Israeli Midwives Organization has reached out to pregnant women and new moms with a series of tips encouraging them to practice mindful breathing, share any difficulties with family and friends and reduce news consumption.
Cognizant of many people’s startled reactions when Red Alert sirens wail through the country to warn of incoming rockets, the Magen David Adom national emergency response service has instructed its ambulances not to use sirens unless absolutely necessary.
“It is important in these times to show maximum sensitivity to the feelings of the Israeli public,” says MDA director Eli Bin. “This will assist the public to clearly differentiate between the Red Alert siren that means they must seek shelter, and the ambulance siren.”
In addition, MDA is calling for blood donations to maintain a regular flow of supply to hospitals, in accordance with Home Front Command guidelines.
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