Exclusive insights into the Gaza conflict


04 February 2009 Exclusive insights into the Gaza conflict Some of the top names in New York real estate were given an insider’s analysis into last month’s war in Gaza at an exclusive ORT America breakfast briefing. Captain Yoram Laks, Naval Attach of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, discussed Operation Cast Lead – Israel’s military response to on-going artillery attacks against civilian population centres in the south of the country – and explained the complexities of stemming the flow of terrorism in the Middle East today. Captain Laks provided a remarkable first hand account of the situation in Gaza from a moral, political and personal perspective. He reminded those present – many of whom were founding members of ORT America’s Real Estate and Construction Chapter and who have made their mark in the real estate industry and as noted philanthropists – that in the two months preceding the launch of the operation on December 27, terrorists in Gaza fired 365 rockets and 177 mortar shells into Israel. ‘We’ve put lots of concrete [shelters] in Sderot. In Sderot, you need to be 15 seconds from a shelter all the time. Think about the people in Sderot for eight years, living 15 seconds from death and life. Think about the people in Be’ersheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon,’ he said. World ORT Director General Robert Singer praised Captain Laks for his service on behalf of the State of Israel. He said that everyone in the room appreciated the importance of community and cared deeply for the people of Israel, not least for the thousands of children benefiting from World ORT projects within range of terrorist rocket fire. ‘We have projects in schools on the Gaza border. Just yesterday during the matriculation exams for history, exams that students prepare for four years to take, there were three red alerts. All of you have kids. Imagine your children preparing for four years for an exam that decides your success – and having to stop three times. At the end of the day, it is about the children who live there,’ Mr Singer told the gathering at Manhattan’s Harmonie Club yesterday. The son of Holocaust Survivors, Captain Laks served for three years as Ashdod Naval Base & Arena commanding officer, responsible for the security of the coastal strip from central Israel down to Egyptian waters, including the waters off Gaza. His duties included anti-terror combat and naval anti-terror warfare. In addition to serving as Naval Attach , Captain Laks serves as Military Advisor to the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations. ‘ORT is impressive. You’re a big organisation and you do so much,’ Captain Laks told the gathering. Mr Singer told Captain Laks: ‘We are all responsible for each other. We are here with you You are there for strategic direction, and we for a good educational system for children and for employability.’ Arthur Draznin, President of the ORT America Real Estate Chapter, told Captain Laks: ‘Thank you for making this such a powerful discussion, for being on the front line of our defence not just for Israel but for Jews around the world who depend on Israel for the Jewish people; and thank you on behalf of the Real Estate Chapter.’ Mr Draznin added: ‘Especially now, in this current climate, ORT students depend on us to provide the foundation to build better lives for their families and communities through the critical programmes and life-changing educational initiatives you have long supported. What gratification it is to know that our support has provided the gift of learning to students and beneficiaries in 63 countries.’ The ‘power breakfast’ was one in a series of exclusive briefings in New York and around the country that is re-energising ORT America and providing special opportunities for ORT members. Those attending the private briefing included William Auerbach, Herbert Ackerman, Scott Bloom, Stewart Cahn, Lucien Bohbot, Louis Brause, Arthur Draznin, Jerry Gottesman, Dennis Karr, Jeffrey Mitzner, Arnold Penner, Brian Stolar, Michael Stoler, and Rachel Abramowitz. Impressed by the calibre of the presentation, Brian Stolar said: ‘Hearing from somebody on the front lines just reinforces that this is not a temporary situation and never ending vigilance will be required.’