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People's changing needs

These people arrived with nothing, they have no funds, and are far from their businesses or workplaces.

Yaacov Deutsch, interviewed November 1, 2023 By Holly Kemph

When there’s no war, Dr. Yaacov Deutsch teaches Jewish-Christian relations in the Middle Ages and the Early New Age at the Hebrew University. At the JCCC, Yaacov is in charge of the team that organizes the recruitment and delivery of domestic supplies and equipment to civilians and personal items such as warm clothing to soldiers. When they started they had soldiers in mind, but quickly expanded the effort to embrace displaced civilians too. Originally, the two efforts were managed separately. Now they’re one combined team.

They have an online form that people fill out, to indicate what supplies or equipment they need, in what quantity, and for what purpose. The forms are received at the Civilian Command Center, where they review the needs requested. They try to focus on helping small groups of soldiers or specific people who’ve been displaced, rather than large groups in their hundreds, which are beyond the scope of what volunteers can do on their own without government aid. Some of the needs for the soldiers are: thermal shirts, tents, gloves, dry fit shirts, bandages, socks, and more. For civilians, some common needs are food, equipment, electric kettles, clothing, and personal hygiene products.

Once Yaacov’s team receives the requests they go over their stock. If they have what someone needs, they fill out another form which is checked against inventory in the storeroom. There are two storerooms: one for the army and one for civilians. The items are then packaged and sent all across the country, even to the south and the north.

Items missing from stock are listed for bulk purchase and warehoused until needed. The lists are flexible and keep changing in line with people’s changing needs. Yaacov’s team also does follow-up calls, to make sure that people’s needs are being met, either through the Jerusalem team or through other sources, and to check what further items require urgent priority. They always want to make sure the people who need the supplies most will get them.

For the army, they also talk to unit commanders to ensure that the right sort of personal items, in the right quantities, are delivered to each unit. For the civilian requests they are checking where people are from. That way they ensure they’re helping people evacuated from the South or the northern border. The ultimate goal is to help the people the government isn’t helping.

For the civilians it might seem like it should be simple enough to go to the supermarket and buy what they need. But these are people who have arrived with nothing, they have no funds, and are far from their businesses or workplaces. They need food. Social services from the government are slow and inefficient in getting to these people. The government has still not found a solution for how welfare will work for the people who are not yet in their hometowns.

To fund these bulk purchases, there is a team in charge of soliciting funds as well as gifts from private individuals, large businesses, and supermarket chains. Donors are brought in to see what the needs entail to encourage them to provide the wherewithal to carry on the work.

Yaacov started at the Hamal from the first week of the war. Initially he was active from home, rounding up supplies for soldiers, but he soon realized this was too limited an approach. He found it hard to try focusing on his normal routine. He shares, “I don’t feel that going to work is the right thing to do now. I was looking for things to do and then I found the Hamal. Now I’m here four or five times a week.”

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