The One Israel Fund – as its name suggests – is dedicated to the unity of the Land of Israel, making sure that Judea and Samaria remain integral parts of the State of Israel and strengthening the communities settled there.
Arutz Sheva spoke with One Israel Fund’s executive vice-president, Scott Feltman, to hear about some of the organization’s latest projects.
“One Israel Fund was established 28 years ago, right after the Oslo Accords were signed,” he relates. “Already at that early stage, there were those who foresaw where things were headed and realized that if we didn’t invest in the communities of Judea and Samaria, we could end up losing them. That’s what we’re about – giving those communities what they need to grow and thrive.”
With “peace” in the air and high hopes for a final answer to the Palestinian question, it wasn’t easy back then to fundraise for what many saw as a “controversial” issue; even today, raising much-needed funds is no simple matter. How did the Fund surmount this particular challenge?
“Whenever I’m afforded the opportunity – and that doesn’t always happen, unfortunately – I stress the fact that Judea and Samaria are the heartland of the Jewish People. Without them, there is no country. In terms of numbers, we’re talking about half a million proud and strong Zionist citizens, working to improve the country in myriad ways. Remember that many of these communities are less than half an hour away from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, and while many of the people who live there work there too, developing the land and strengthening our hold on it, many others commute to jobs in the cities where they contribute to the economy in other ways.”
One Israel Fund supports these communities from the foundation upward – from their basic security needs through to all kinds of projects to enhance their quality of life.
“A lot of what we do you’ll never hear about,” Feltman notes. “When we boost security in a certain community and because of that, terror attacks are averted, that doesn’t make the news. We’ve even cooperated with the IDF in specific cases. Unfortunately, it’s the failures that get people to wake up and realize the need for what we do, which was the case ten years ago in Itamar, when five members of the Fogel family were murdered. Marc Provisor, our security director, had been in the United States fundraising the year before, and when he went back afterward, he pointed out that when there are victims, people are much more willing to give.
“That was a particularly tragic case,” he adds, “because of the background to it. Several members of the Itamar community had approached One Israel Fund the year before the murders, asking for us to help them increase their security coverage. They already knew they were a potential target, because Arabs had been testing the fence in various places to find a weak point, and the recent growth of the community meant that there were parts of the settlement that weren’t covered by the security cameras.
“We raised money to add another camera system – but the infiltration came from another part of the fence which wasn’t covered.”
Too often, it’s in times of trouble that basic facts that should have been obvious become all too clear. Despite the fact that many of the communities of Judea and Samaria are located in close proximity to major population centers, that doesn’t always mean that an ambulance speeding a terrorist attack victim to hospital can make it there fast enough. The Hizma checkpoint in the Binyamin region, for example, controls traffic passing from Samaria south-west into Jerusalem, and not infrequently, long lines at the crossing turn what should be a twenty-minute ride into one over an hour long.
It was with facts like that in mind that the One Israel Fund embarked on its latest project, truly a massive undertaking: constructing a huge medical center to service the entire Binyamin region, some two hundred thousand people.
“Many more than that, actually,” Feltman explains, “because that’s without factoring in the non-Jewish population that the medical center will serve. It’s vital to include them in our planning – first of all because we need to have good relations with them, and secondly, because that advances the project itself.
“The medical center is going to provide a lot of jobs – during construction, and then once it’s up and running. But most importantly, it’s going to be a total game-changer in terms of providing every kind of outpatient service you can imagine in an area where currently, nothing exists.
“We’re making the desert bloom,” Feltman concludes, “in all kinds of ways you can imagine, for a stronger and more united Israel for all of us.”