Charity under fire
Rubik Danilovich walks quickly toward his guest and embraces her. This is how the new mayor of Be'er Sheva carries himself, even amid the preparations for Hamas rocket barrages. The guest is Dvora Ganani, the director general of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. She nonchalantly hands Danilovich a check for NIS 421,000, a gift from American Christians intended for needy Israelis.
The money is earmarked for home appliances, medicine, hearing aides, eyeglasses, dental care, transportation for the sick, and more. This is just the first payment for 2009; the city is expected to receive a total of almost NIS 900,000. Ganani has vowed that if the city needs more money due to the latest crisis, it will receive it.
Danilovich warmly thanks her, and then notes that he needs NIS 3 million to prepare dozens of public bomb shelters for use. Ganani says the fellowship can help renovate the shelters, just as it did in the north, Sderot and Ashkelon. But, she added, in her meeting with Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai and representatives of other philanthropic organizations, it was agreed that all aid to the home front would be distributed by the National Emergency Authority (known by the acronym RACHEL in Hebrew).
Danilovich calls Vilnai and hands the telephone to Ganani.
"I have money, but you need to decide who does what," she says to Vilnai. The deputy minister promises to discuss the bomb shelters today, and promises an answer within 24 hours. The next day, Vilnai announces that the shelters will not be renovated due to the lack of time, and that residents should take cover in protected areas like staircases. Danilovich requests 18 warning systems for schools. Ganani calls Vilnai's aide, who pledges to find out who can provide the equipment.
The fellowship donates to welfare-related causes in 150 local and municipal councils. Ganani and the fellowship's project manager, Edna Ben Ari, head out of Be'er Sheva, toward Ashkelon. There, Mayor Benny Vaknin convenes his deputies and accepts a check for NIS 266,000 - the first contribution for 2009. He instructs his welfare department to use some of the money to buy food stamps for needy residents in rocket-battered neighborhoods.
Vaknin's main problem is a lack of computers needed to provide children with home-schooling.
"I need 3,500 computers and the state is not forthcoming," Vaknin says. "This is what I'm going to tell the press - 3,500 poor children are not learning, only rich children are learning."
Ganani tells the mayor that the fellowship does not work with education matters. Vaknin insists this is a welfare issue. She suggests he pass on the request to RACHEL, and said that when she met with Vilnai two days ago, an Education Ministry official claimed all the children had computers.
"RACHEL who?" Vaknin asks repeatedly until someone explains. "Well, I've been mayor for a week and I've gotten 46 rockets," he says in self-defense. Ganani calls Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder and president of IFCJ. Vaknin warmly thanks him for the money and asks if the organization can provide more, given the situation.
Even the head of the Eshkol regional council, Haim Yalin, has prepared a shopping list for Ganani. He needs supplies for a bomb shelter in the town of Avshalom, and funding to transport children to the north for a break. Ganani suggests approaching RACHEL or the Education Ministry. Yalin immediately calls Yuli Tamir, who just happens to be in nearby Sderot. Yalin and Ganani speak with her, and she promises to get back to them as soon as possible.