B’ham families launch campaign to assist their frontline community near Gaza

File photo from a visit to Moshav Talmei Yosef in an early-1990s Birmingham group trip to Israel.

For decades, the Duvdevani family from Birmingham has lived in Moshav Talmei Yosef, a small village of about 300 near Gaza, where residents grow flowers for export.

Now, Birmingham is mobilizing to help the moshav and other front-line Israeli communities in the Eshkol region near Gaza as they reel from the surprise attack by Hamas this past Saturday. The area includes about 32 communities with around 20,000 residents, and some communities lost significant proportions of their residents in the massacre. About 10 percent of the 1,000 residents of Kibbutz Be’eri were killed.

Chabad of Alabama is taking the lead on a campaign to send funds to support people in the region, set up by Jeremy and Dovrat Duvdevani, who grew up in that region but now live in Birmingham. The initial goal is $200,000, which will go toward “essential necessities, including food, clothing, lodging, defensive gear, generators, and funeral expenses.”

The attack disrupted farms and factories, affecting livelihoods throughout the region.

In the background for the campaign, the Duvdevani, Kartus, Downs and Datnoff families of Birmingham said “While these communities have endured rocket fire for years, the current situation is the most dire they have ever faced. The level of danger and hardship they are experiencing now surpasses anything they have encountered before.”

Talmei Yosef is about three miles from Gaza and four miles from the Egyptian border. It is near the southern end of Gaza, while the Erez crossing and areas most heavily infiltrated by Hamas were at the northern end. Talmei Yosef is 25 miles from hard-hit Kfar Aza. While victims are still being identified, a running list on Israel Hayom noted that Stam Kimchi of Talmei Yosef had been killed.

Over the years, numerous group Israel trips from Birmingham included a visit to Talmei Yosef. In the days long before the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, the border was mainly open and they were able to shop in Gaza, while Gazans worked on the moshav.

Sallie Downs said that her sister, Margaret Duvdevani, and her family were evacuated by the military to a moshav near Eilat and the Jordanian border. Son Daniel stayed behind to work security in the area.

Margaret’s husband, Giora, died the day after they arrived in the south. “His health was volatile, and the multiple stresses imposed upon him took its toll,” Downs said.

Downs said the evacuees “left home quickly with little or nothing,” and “those providing shelter, food and support for the evacuees could use support in their humanitarian efforts.”

The Birmingham Jewish Federation is doing an emergency campaign with the Jewish Federations of North America, and Downs said she supports their work “wholeheartedly,” but this separate campaign is needed because the Federations don’t have the flexibility to target funds immediately to a specific community.

All of the raised funds will go to the people of the Eshkol region.