October 7th, marked by a horrific and unprecedented attack that will forever change the nation’s history, was a day that cast a dark shadow over Israel; The devastating consequences led to emotional scars, affecting everyone.
Amidst the unprecedented destruction, and true to Israel’s start-up culture, determined citizens have launched instant civil initiatives to provide relief and assistance.
From distributing donated food, medical supplies, and equipment to providing support for the bereaved and recruiting volunteers to save the harvest and crops on the border, civil organizations and tech companies have been using their products, services, human resources, and talent to create solutions for emergency needs.
Alongside the widespread civil volunteering addressing urgent needs, special attention had to be turned to the uniquely vulnerable victims, the children, many of whom have endured immeasurable pain and trauma. Some have lost both parents; some are living with the agony of not knowing what happened to their parents at all. Refugees in their own homeland, they need immediate emotional support, stability, and routine if they can ever hope to heal.
Emergency Initiative for Children on the Front Line
Two prominent Israeli civil social organizations, Sheatufim and Zionism 2000, have joined forces to form Resilience for Our Children (Yeladenu), an innovative, national emergency operation. With the efficiency and urgency of a startup, and armed with the visionary entrepreneurial spirit Israel is known for, they’ve wasted no time in mobilizing their resources and a tried-and-true tool box.
“At this challenging time,” says Ronny Douek, founder of Zionism 2000 and CEO of Sheatufim, “we are acutely aware of the trauma that these children, who are at the forefront of the war, are experiencing. We must offer them support where it is needed and become their anchor. Their resilience is our strength, and their well-being will influence the face of this nation for decades to come.”
Since Israel is still at war, the plan is constantly evolving according to ever-changing needs. “A focus on the children expands our ability to make a real impact,” says Douek. “In this crisis that has affected and continues to affect so many areas, helping the children means helping the parents as well, who then have the peace of mind that someone is taking care of their children. This is our humble contribution to increasing resilience among all family members.”
Thomas Nides, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, notes the importance of this evolving operation. “As I think about the tragedy and its impact, nothing is more important than taking care of the children. They are the future, and as we rebuild, they will be the foundation. These kids need to believe that even if it’s dark right now, their futures are bright.”
This mission must be viewed in light of the magnitude of the current situation. “We are witnessing an unprecedented mass of people in trauma and despair, and innovative solutions start with the ability to understand the full and fluctuating picture that stems from the fact that we are still at war,” Douek stresses. “We need to be able to provide an immediate response as well as a long-term one, which is in itself part of the solution.”
The operation’s leaders recognize that they are working within a new ecosystem. “In unprecedented situations, systems break down, and we must adjust quickly. We are addressing complex issues that other organizations may not have the capacity to prioritize or manage in these extreme circumstances. It’s evident to everyone that if the acute problems and challenges that these children endure remain unaddressed, they will only get worse.”
Both organizations have a distinguished history of creating meaningful change in the Israeli landscape; they have orchestrated numerous national reality-changing initiatives in times of crisis and emergency. Notably, their life-saving operation Veshamarta (“Keeping Safe’’) during the COVID-19 crisis provided vital care for the elderly population across the country. “Now, like then,” Douek says, “we are working to protect those who cannot protect themselves and raise the required resources to fulfill their needs over a long period.”
Critical Needs Require Long-Term Solutions
The Resilience for Our Children operation caters to more than 10,000 children aged 6-18, and will provide them with constant, comprehensive, and personalized care for the year ahead and beyond.
Within a single day, the operation was set into motion based on the organizations’ collective impact method, which promotes the joint efforts of all stakeholders, including the public, business, and non-profit sectors. Much like a conductor of an orchestra, they are directing various instruments in the production of a synergistic solution.
Visiting the sites where evacuees or residing temporarily, teams have mapped out the needs and began constructing physical facilities and special centers.
In ten days, they’ve built the first resilience center, starting with a huge tent, four large centers, classrooms for group activities as well as twenty treatment rooms, where children can receive mental treatment and therapy. The resilience centers offer a safe and welcoming place for children’s gatherings, activities, treatments, and sessions.
Another task team has identified the country’s top experts and organizations who specialize in the five focus areas of the operation, including personalized daily needs, emotional and psychological support, rest and recreation, and education. Notably, partnerships have been forged with leading resilience organizations in Israel, such as the Israeli Coalition for Trauma and Natal, and youth leadership movements like Aharai and 5 Fingers. In addition, collaborative working groups have been established with relevant government authorities, including resilience, education, welfare, and health agencies.
Sheatufim’s CEO, Shlomo Dushi, explains that stability and consistency are critical elements in enhancing the children’s resilience. “In this case, the professionals recruited for this operation have committed for the long run and will serve as a consistent force to build trust and stability.”
Tailored Technology To The Rescue
This large undertaking requires highly sophisticated planning and constant monitoring. Zionism 2000’s CEO, Sari Nuriel, says that “the organization has been working for over twenty years with an extensive business community in Israel, including hundreds of hi-tech companies, and specializes in mobilizing them to provide a response to the needs of the civilian community.”
The technological aspect of the operation is rapidly developing. “We are building a robust data infrastructure to manage this complex mission,” says Palo Alto Networks’ SVP Idan Tendler, who is leading the operation’s special tech force alongside Google’s Ran Savit. “We are working closely with Monday.com‘s non-profit unit and its team of volunteers to design the platform that will assist in the navigation and calibration of our operation, from managing the physical site to coordinating treatments, activities and much more.”
The Difference Between Donations And Investments
Traditionally, both nonprofits have been working for years on game-changing national projects that have provided the country with a POC (proof of concept) that can be adopted and implemented on a national scale. Therefore, their initial financial investment is greatly multiplied when it is later adopted by the government.
“We create the infrastructure, make the first investment, and make sure the solutions we create for a problem are significantly impactful,” says Sheatufim’s CEO Shlomo Dushi, “When we set the goal of increasing the number of Israeli students who excel in math, for example, we built a designated program that turned out to be a huge success, and we got the state to invest 100 million shekels in its maintenance. Just recently, we invested half a million shekels in a project designed to reduce domestic violence, which led to an investment of hundreds of millions by the state.”
With the capital that Douek, JFNA, the Blavatnik Family Foundation, and tech giants like CheckPoint, Dell, and others donated to Resilience for Our Children, they’ve been able to launch the operation immediately. Full execution will require raising another NIS 20M for ongoing operations, i.e., continued investment in the future generation of Israel.
Isaac Herzog, Israel’s President, has highlighted the importance of this operation: “This initiative is a prime example of how Israeli civil society exhibits true resilience and strength, especially when it comes to individual and national crises. In recent weeks especially, we have seen the incredible power of the Israeli spirit and its ability to bring people together and help ensure that society, as a whole, moves forward together.”
“In the midst of everything,” says JFNA’s SVP for Israel and Overseas, Rebecca Caspi, who helps support the operation. “It is imperative that we pay serious attention to the emotional well-being of the country’s children, and in this regard, we are inspired by Yeladenu’s creative and thoughtful work.”
A new civic leadership has emerged in Israel and it includes a great cadre of civilians whose abilities, skills, dedication, and professionalism shine brightly for all to see, especially against the government’s shortcomings. “We have no time to dwell on the past; the children are our priority, and time is of the essence. Civil leaders,” Douek concludes, “are the backbone of our national rehabilitation. We are utilizing our best people and capabilities, prevailing and leaving no one behind.”