The first reported Israeli death in Operation Shield and Arrow – the most recent skirmish between Israel and Gaza Terror groups – is a resident of Rehovot, Parthership2Gether sister city of Minneapolis.
At last month’s Experience Israel 2023 Mega Mission, the city hosted the 250-member Minneapolis Jewish Federation contingent for a night of dinner and entertainment by artists from the city roughly 20 km south of Tel Aviv.
“Not to overstate, but this is family,” said Mark Appelbaum, the P2G steering committee chair. “Our partnership is based on personal relationships. This is an extension of our community and it goes both ways, in times of joy and in times of less than joy. We find ourselves particularly connected, caring, and concerned.”
A rocket fired from Gaza struck a building in the city killing one and injuring several others, according to Israeli media.
The attack on Rehovot comes less than a week before the P2G group from Israel is scheduled to come to Minneapolis.
“The trip is still on,” said Amit Yaniv-Zehavi, the director of the Minneapolis-Rehovot partnership. “There’s no reason to cancel [at the moment]. I haven’t heard anyone say anything.”
Yaniv-Zehavi said she’s been in touch with many people in Rehovot – she lives on a kibbutz about 40 minutes away – and said the community is touched by the outpouring of support.
“Something happened to someone you just met,” she said. “It’s not just the name of a city. It’s a place you visit. [The support] is what the partnership does in good times and bad times.”
Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said the grief felt is more acute because of the relationship with Rehovot.
“Several JCRC staff and board members are deeply involved in the Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s Partnership2Gether Steering Committee,” he said in a statement. “They are our family. We look forward to welcoming a delegation from Rehovot to Minneapolis next week.”
Jim Cohen, Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s CEO, said that the number of people who have reached out to him or Federation staffers Eilat Harel and Kara Rosenwald is far greater than would have been four weeks ago – prior to the Experience Israel trip.
“People made friends that have a face, and there’s a connection now,” he said. “It’s not a hypothetical, nameless person. This attack is always horrible, but when you can personalize it, it’s that much more difficult.”