Saturday, July 22, 2006

Local fund launched to aid Israel

Jewish leaders seek money to help nation stem turmoil
Saturday, July 22, 2006
News staff writer

Warning that Israel's security from terrorism is at a critical juncture, Birmingham Jewish leaders have started a "Freedom from Terror" fund that has collected more than $300,000 in the first week.

The fund was started last Saturday in response to the escalating military conflict in the Middle East. Israel has attacked sites in Lebanon in retaliation for kidnappings and missile attacks by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

"Obviously it's a very serious situation," said Richard Friedman, executive director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation. "Historically the Birmingham Jewish community has been very generous and supportive of Israel. Israel's case is so clear and so overwhelming, they realize this is not business as usual. We welcome donations not just from Jews but anyone who cares about Israel and its survival."

The fund elicited immediate support. One couple gave $25,000, another $50,000. Another family contributed $100,000.

Birmingham's Jewish places of worship - Temple Emanu-El, Temple Beth-El, Knesseth Israel and Bais Ariel Chabad Jewish Enrichment Center - are observing "Solidarity Shabbat" today to pray for Israel and for the safety of Israeli soldiers.

Friedman, who returned Tuesday from Israel, will speak at 10:30 a.m. at Temple Beth-El and then later in the morning at Knesseth Israel.

"This money will go for humanitarian programs and address needs Israel has because of the two-front war launched by Hezbollah and Hamas," Friedman said. "It will help move thousands of teenagers out of northern Israel and locate them in summer camps. The idea is to get them out of harm's way."

Friedman said he's optimistic that Israel's strikes against Hezbollah and Hamas will weaken their military capacity to attack Israel and help stabilize the Middle East in the long run.

"There has been a coordinated, orchestrated effort by radical Islamic terrorists," Friedman said. "It threatens not just Israel but the entire Western world. I sensed in Israel a quiet determination to address this problem once and for all."

Checks can be sent to "Freedom from Terror," Birmingham Jewish Federation, P.O. Box 130219, Birmingham, AL 35213. More information: 978-0416.

© 2006 The Birmingham News

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