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With young adults off to war, Israeli teens are stepping up in their communities

This story was produced as part of the JTA Teen Journalism Fellowship program.

(JTA) — After her husband left abruptly to join his army unit, Meytal Blumenthal Gordon realized she still hadn’t disassembled her sukkah, the temporary structure the family put up during the Sukkot holiday at their home in Jerusalem. She wasn’t physically capable of doing so alone.

“Two sweet boys, teenagers, came and they took down the sukkah and helped me organize it,” Blumenthal Gordon said. “We actually had a siren in the middle. We all ran to the shelter, and then they continued helping.”

It wasn’t the only time that neighborhood teens have stopped by to help Blumenthal Gordon in the weeks since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel plunged the country into war. They have also brought her boxes of food and helped her with her two children, a 5-year-old boy and a newborn daughter.

It’s all part of an abrupt and notable shift in a country that uniquely refers to school-aged teens as being in “the stupid age.” In ordinary circumstances, Israeli teens are not assigned many responsibilities before they graduate from high school, in a nod to the fact that most will enter compulsory military service soon after turning 18, cutting short the extended adolescence that many of their peers in other countries enjoy.

But since war began earlier this month, most young Israeli men and some women have been drafted into military service. With schools closed until recently, teens have been uniquely positioned to step into the gap.

Thousands of teens have been organizing independently and through youth groups to volunteer to babysit, dismantle sukkahs, prepare food for soldiers and stock refrigerators. Some have even been digging graves.

Youth group buildings have become shelters for those displaced from the south, near Gaza, and groups of teens have been organizing donations of food and other essentials.

“It brings the whole nation together, especially in times like these,” said Hallel Heller, a ninth-grader from Jerusalem who spent the first week of the war packaging meals for soldiers.

Other teens, like Shefer Zimran, 14, who hails from the West Bank city of Efrat, are helping younger children affected by the war. Together with friends from her neighborhood, Zimran handed out bags of candy and art supplies to children who are home from school in her community. Zimran later sent videos of art projects to keep the children busy. Zimran knew that mothers whose husbands had been drafted had trouble keeping their small children occupied.

“It is important, now more than ever, to help people in need,” Zimran said. “And we have free time and the ability to help.”

Odelia Kaye, 16, from Jerusalem, has been offering practical and emotional support for mothers who are now caring for young children on their own. “Sometimes they’re alone and it’s really difficult to take care of kids by yourself,” she said.

In addition to playing with children, washing dishes, cleaning up and folding laundry for mothers on their own, Kaye has found that what is sometimes most appreciated is the company.

“I feel like the more I’ve done it, the more I’ve learned about how difficult it is for some of these moms who have really small children, including young babies, a couple of months old,” said Kaye. “These moms need emotional support. It’s easy to feel alone and it’s important for me to make sure that these people know that they’re not alone and that I’m there to help.”

Blumenthal Gordon said she is accustomed to being alone because her husband, a physician, is often away for extended periods, so it’s not just the loneliness that local teens help her battle.

“Emotionally, it’s very different,” she said. “I’m so worried about my husband, we’re constantly running to a shelter, and the energy is really low. Having the teenagers over gives good vibes.”

The post With young adults off to war, Israeli teens are stepping up in their communities appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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UN Committee Says Not Enough Evidence to Declare a Famine in Gaza

Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid make their way to the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, at the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Israel, May 30, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The United Nations Famine Review Committee (FRC), a panel of experts in international food security and nutrition, has cast doubt on the notion that the northern Gaza Strip is suffering through a famine.

In a report released earlier this month, the committee responded to a claim by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) — a US-created provider of warning and analysis on food insecurity — that a famine was likely underway in northern Gaza. FEWS NET said that northern Gaza began experiencing famine in April and projected that the embattled enclave would endure famine until at least July 31.

The FRC rejected the assertion that northern Gaza is experiencing famine, citing the “uncertainty and lack of convergence of the supporting evidence employed in the analysis.” The panel carries out evaluations of humanitarian conditions on behalf of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), an international famine monitoring initiative. 

The FRC added that there is not sufficient evidence to confirm the existence of a famine within northern Gaza and called for more humanitarian access into the warzone, providing experts an opportunity to give an accurate assessment of the conditions. 

“The very fact that we are unable to endorse (or not) FEWS NET’s analysis is driven by the lack of essential up-to-date data on human well-being in northern Gaza, and Gaza at large,” the report stated. “Thus, the FRC strongly requests all parties to enable humanitarian access in general, and specifically to provide a window of opportunity to conduct field surveys in northern Gaza to have more solid evidence of the food consumption, nutrition, and mortality situation.”

However, the panel warned that Gaza is still enduring “extreme human suffering” and called for the “complete, safe, unhindered, and sustained” transport of aid into the enclave.

The report represents a course-reversal for the FRC, which claimed that Gaza likely surpassed the “famine thresholds for acute malnutrition” in March. The FRC now contends that civilians in Gaza are experiencing improved humanitarian conditions as a result of increased aid flowing into the war-torn enclave.   

“Since the FRC review conducted in March 2024, there seems to have been a significant increase in the number of food trucks entering northern Gaza,” the report read.

“The FEWS NET analysis acknowledges that humanitarian assistance in the area has increased significantly, finding that caloric availability from humanitarian assistance increased from 9 percent in February to 34 percent  to 36 percent in March and 59 percent to 63 percent in April. The opening of alternative routes to the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings, the authorization of commercial truck entry, as well as airdrops, allowed for an increase of food availability,” the report continued.

Several aid agencies, media outlets, and politicians, as well as pro-Palestinian activists, have repeatedly accused Israel of inflicting famine on Palestinians since beginning its military operations in Gaza following Hamas’ Oct. 7 slaughter of over 1,200 people throughout southern Israel. Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, accused Israel of using starvation as a “weapon of war.”

Despite these allegations, data produced by the United Nations showed that Israel allowed more than 100 food trucks to enter Gaza per day in March, an increase from the daily average of 70 trucks before the war. Moreover, many trucks transporting aid into Gaza have been hijacked and seized by Hamas terrorists, increasing the difficulty of distributing food to civilians.

The post UN Committee Says Not Enough Evidence to Declare a Famine in Gaza first appeared on

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Hundreds rallied outside Toronto school board offices to protest a racism report that doesn’t mention antisemitism

Hundreds of people filled the lawn in front of the Toronto District School Board (TSDB) to oppose a proposed anti-discrimination policy being voted on by trustees that would include recognizing anti-Palestinian racism—while failing to acknowledge rising antisemitism in schools. The report, entitled Combating Hate and Racism: Student Learning Strategy, was received without any amendments by […]

The post Hundreds rallied outside Toronto school board offices to protest a racism report that doesn’t mention antisemitism appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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French President Denounces ‘Scourge of Antisemitism’ After 12-Year-Old Jewish Girl Raped

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference in Paris, France, June 12, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday denounced the “scourge of antisemitism” and called on schools to hold discussions on racism and hatred of Jews after three boys were charged with raping a 12-year-old Jewish girl in a Paris suburb.

The young girl told police that she was approached by three boys who raped and beat her in the northwestern Paris suburb of Courbevoie on Saturday in an incident that French authorities have described as a hate crime. According to French media, the assailants called the victim a “dirty Jew” and uttered other antisemitic remarks during the brutal gang-rape.

A police source told AFP that one of the boys asked the young girl questions about “her Jewish religion” and Israel, citing the child’s statement to investigators.

The boys — two aged 13 and one 12 — were arrested on Monday and indicted on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Macron’s office said the president asked French Education Minister Nicole Belloubet “to organize a discussion in all schools on the fight against antisemitism and racism, to prevent hate speech with serious consequences from infiltrating schools.”

The rape of the unnamed 12-year-old girl has caused outrage throughout France and among the Jewish community.

Elie Korchia, president of France’s Central Israelite Consistory, told BFM TV that the girl was raped “because she is Jewish,” adding, “We have never seen antisemitism that extends so far in all areas of life.”

Courbevoie Mayor Jacques Kossowski echoed that sentiment in a statement released on X/Twitter, saying, “The rape was carried out with antisemitic intent.”

Eric Ciotti, leader of Les Républicains, also condemned the “rise of antisemitism” in France, which he argued was “fueled by the alliance of the far left.” He added that “we must act as a bulwark” against antisemitism.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing National Rally party, decried the rape on social media. She noted “the explosion of antisemitic acts” in France since Oct. 7.

The recent gang-rape came amid a record surge of antisemitism in France in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel. Antisemitic outrages rose by over 1,000 percent in the final three months of 2023 compared with the previous year, with over 1,200 incidents reported — greater than the total number of incidents in France for the previous three years combined.

In April, a Jewish woman was beaten and raped in a suburb of Paris as “vengeance for Palestine.”

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