Sha'ar HaNegev Update: Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism

Sha'ar Ha'Negev and Bedouin residents at a community breask-fast

Throughout the summer during Operation Protective Edge, residents of southern Israel faced trying times as they attempted to go about their everyday lives all while protecting themselves from rocket fire and living under the constant sound of sirens. Kehillat Sha’ar HaNegev, led by student-Rabbi Yael Karie, stepped up to the plate to provide programming and guidance to those most in need. The most vulnerable populations in this situation, as can be expected, included young children, elderly populations, immigrant populations, emotionally challenged populations, and those of lower socio-economic means. 

Rabbi Yael, first and foremost, focused on keeping “business as usual” as much as possible by continuing to hold regular Shabbat services, which were attended by hundreds of the Sha’ar HaNegev kibbutzim and moshavim residents. A special Shabbat service was held in Kibbutz Dorot with IDF soldiers serving in and near the Gaza Strip throughout the summer. For many of these young men and women, this was the first time they had ever experienced a Reform service. Some of the Shabbat Service attendees grew up in traditional Jewish households, where modern Orthodox practices were common. On the other hand, some attendees grew up in completely secular households, where religion was not present and exposure to prayer was limited.

In light and in spite of the naturally tense situation in the region, Yael decided to hold a Ramadan break-fast with the Bedouin community in Rahat (a Bedouin community in the Negev), which fell right at the height of the Operation. Despite the fears surrounding tension between residents of the Sha’ar Ha’Negev regional council and the Bedouin residents of the Negev, the event was very well attended and was filled with good spirits. The participants spoke about their specific concerns, the general relationship between Jewish and Arab communities in Israel, and about ways to make peace. All sides walked away from the program with renewed energies and a desire to move forward following very difficult weeks.

The past summer was characterized by a constant repeat of the announcement “color red, color red”, which indicated a rocket had just been launched and instructed people to take cover within 10 seconds. In an effort to maintain a positive image of the color red, the community in Sha’ar HaNegev began a Facebook campaign called “HappyRed, which invited people to post positive red images and positive images associated with the color to a designated Facebook photo album.

Additional activities included: musical events at Be’er Sheva hostels; programs with the elderly in Kibbutz Dorot; acupuncture for the elderly; a day of fun activities for staff, children, and doctors at the Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva; and Reform Rabbi solidarity missions. Throughout the summer, four JFNA solidarity missions had arrived in Israel. The mission’s participants got to visit with Yael and members of her community.

Yael’s resilience proved unprecedented, as she led her community through this tough period, continuing to lead Shabbat services while significantly enhancing programing for her community members. All of this could not have been done without the support of the JFNA “Stop the Sirens” campaign along with the on-going and enhanced support of the IMPJ headquarters staff. It was a true statement of Jewish solidarity when it was most necessary.


For more information, please contact David Bernstein, IMPJ director of development and overseas relations at or +972-54-779-1101.



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