To our dear friends in Israel and around the world,

Like all Jewish residents of Eretz Yisrael, we too were taken by shock on Simchat Torah, when our enemies succeeded in breaching the borders of our country and carried out a heinous massacre, unprecedented since the horrific days of the Holocaust.

As a city surrounded by hostile Arab villages, the danger facing our residents was twofold. While the military forces were busy defending Israel’s South and the entire country was under missile attack, we keenly felt the danger lurking all around us, literally just outside our city’s gates.

Beitar Ilit, home to nearly 80,000 residents, is nestled among the Judean mountains and surrounded by the Arab villages of Hussan, Nahalin, Wadi Puchin, and Batir. Even in regular times, the security situation in Beitar is complex, but with the outbreak of the war, we immediately realized that the massacre in Southern Israel can, chas veshalom, immediately impact us too -may Hashem have mercy on us.

Our city is an entirely Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) city, which means that many of our residents are kollel students whose main occupation is Torah study. We have very few residents who can carry weapons. The army did deploy a small unit to our city, but it was immediately apparent that it was insufficient and we would ultimately be required to defend our city. We were forced to think of “outside the box” solutions to ensure that we would be ready for every scenario, with Hashem’s help.

Another important fact about our city: close to 70% of the population is under the age of 18. It is not for naught that our city has been nicknamed “Children’s Town”! What this means on a practical level is that even if all adults in the city carry weapons, we would still be dealing with a reality in which the absolute majority of our city’s residents require protection.

During the second day of the war, we suffered a direct missile hit in the heart of the city. Baruch Hashem, there were no fatalities, but seven residents were injured. One of them, a seven-year-old child, sustained shrapnel wounds to his back from the rocket and faced the real concern of remaining disabled for life. I accompanied him to the operating room, and the emunah displayed by the child and his family was astounding and gave chizuk to the entire city. Baruch Hashem, the complex surgery was successful and the child recovered.

We mobilized our reserve unit immediately. To further strengthen our city’s defense line, we also initiated a project called Barei Shmirah – residents who are former IDF soldiers and who volunteered for duty, were issued firearms by the army so that they could defend the city in the event of an attack, chas veshalom.

We established a drone unit that has become a model for the entire country to imitate. Even the army utilizes their services and people come from all over the country to learn about this unique unit, which is completely operated by volunteer residents of the city. We purchased special cameras for them at a cost of hundreds of thousands of shekels, and with Hashem’s help, they are constantly on the front lines of defending our city, vigil and ready to report any attempt at an attack. Of course, we thank One Israel Fund for all their support in these security initiatives but there is so much more to be done.

We also upgraded the city’s fence cameras at a cost of millions of shekels. All this was done with virtually no budget since our city is in one of the lowest socio-economic standings in Israel. In truth, however, our spirit is our main driving force. Yes, there are challenges, complexities, coping with living in a security-complex area, and budget shortages. But all this is irrelevant when we have the right spirit, and all of us together are determined to continue settling the land, fighting our enemies and defending our people. Working together with you, our friends around the world through One Israel Fund, is what gets this accomplished and we cannot begin to express our appreciation for this partnership.

We are raising funds for our city’s defense and doing everything in our power to ensure that the city’s residents remain safe and can continue going about their daily routines in peace. It is no simple task, certainly not when conducted simultaneously with the regular management of the city, but our spirit is strong and no challenge will break us.

I will conclude with a verse from the Navi Yehoshua, which we read in the Haftorah on Simchat Torah – a verse that has been guiding me through the entire period since: “Did I not command you, be strong and have courage, do not fear and do not be dismayed, for Hashem your G-d is with you wherever you go.”

It is what we have always done, and what we will continue to do – because Am Yisrael Chai!

Sincerely,

Meir Rubinstein
Mayor, Beitar Ilit