Support and Assistance during Operation Iron Swords

Support and Assistance during Operation Iron Swords
24th October 2023 Moriah Aharon

The Hebrew University is joining in on the national initiative to volunteer and assist the Israeli community through the 2023 Israel-Hamas war.

This includes assistance to families of hostages and of missing persons, assistance to bereaved families of fallen soldiers, establishing a school and kindergarten in Jerusalem for children evacuated from the South, assistance in hospitals, dental assistance for residents of the South and the military, assistance to the Ben-Gurion University community, provision of tools and assistance for professionals, activities for children and youth, financial assistance to help small businesses negatively affected by the war, legal assistance, support for organisations (including the IDF, Israel’s Ministry of Health), and much more.


Assistance to Families of hostages and of missing people

The Clinical Legal Education Center in the Faculty of Law submitted an urgent appeal on behalf of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. In its appeal, the International Human Rights Clinic demanded that the UN take urgent action to obtain information about abductees and missing persons kidnapped by Hamas, and advance efforts for their safe release. The Clinic also submitted an appeal to the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum in which it urged the Working Group to issue an urgent appeal for Hamas to reveal and clarify the fate and whereabouts of every person abducted by it or any other organisation within the Gaza Strip. In cooperation with Bizchut – The Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities, the University’s centre for Disability Studies, and 23 disability advocacy organisations in Israel, the Clinic submitted a third appeal to the International Committee of the Red Cross calling for the Committee’s urgent action to free all those – including individuals with disabilities – kidnapped by Hamas and being held in the Gaza Strip.

Assistance to bereaved families of fallen soldiers

Logistical support for funerals held at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.

Establishing a school and kindergarten in Jerusalem for children evacuated from the South

The Hebrew University is working the Jerusalem Municipality to establish a school and kindergarten for children evacuated from their homes in Sderot in southern Israel.

Hosting families from the South

The Beit Maiersdorf Faculty Club and guesthouse on the Mount Scopus Campus is offering to host families from the South and the families of people who have been wounded and are hospitalised in Jerusalem and nearby hospitals. Beit Bretter, part of the University’s Youth Division on the Edmond J. Safra Campus which has dormitory facilities, is already hosting such families. Beit Bretter is also providing one-on-one assistance to the Sderot evacuees.

Assistance in Hospitals

Faculty of Medicine students, with the full support of Faculty leadership, have offered to volunteer in hospital departments suffering from staff shortages due to the war. Their activities include a project by students in the various medical professions — medicine, occupational therapy, nursing, pharmacy, and biomedical sciences — to map the needs of all departments in hospitals affiliated with the Hebrew University in order to provide optimal assistance. Other student volunteers are working as physician assistants (talking blood, doing ECGs) in day clinics, and also helping to transport patients.

Occupational therapy students are busy providing professional work at rehabilitation hospitals, and also at mental health hospitals (Herzog, Eitanim and Kfar Shaul). The volunteer students are also assisting the Chairman of the National Mental Health Council, Dr. Zvi Fishel, with all matters related to mental health. The students are also providing childcare for the children of medical staff, cooking, and more.

Efforts are being made to expand the voluntary work to other hospitals, including Shaare Zedek (Jerusalem) and Kaplan (Rehovot). To date, some 300 student volunteers have been assigned to 25 departments in 5 hospitals.

Dental assistance for residents of the South and the military

The Faculty of Dental Medicine is providing first-aid treatment for evacuees from the South and members of the security forces, including in specialist areas such as pediatric dentistry, oral medicine, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, and oral rehabilitation.

Assistance to the Ben-Gurion University community

The Ben-Gurion University of the Negev community has been particularly badly hit by the war. Hebrew University Psychological Services are helping, including sharing counseling and coping mechanisms used at HU with colleagues at BGU.

Provision of tools and assistance for professionals

The Magid Institute for Continuing Education is running a free workshop ‘Letting go and connecting with your forces: body, imagination, creativity’ for therapy and welfare professionals, led by Dr. Ronen Berger, an art therapist and senior lecturer who is an expert in using creative tools for stress relief. The Department of Psychology is offering a free introductory workshop in Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for post-trauma. A group of educational counselling, research and therapy scholars at the Seymour Fox School of Education held a support session for 90 educators that addressed the personal upheaval that all are experiencing. The Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare held sessions for some 350 social work and early childhood professionals.

Activities for children and youth

The Hebrew University-affiliated Snunit nonprofit has made its ‘Galim Pro’ platform, which contains study materials in 17 subjects, as well as special child-friendly content on mental resilience and coping emergencies, available to all schoolchildren in grades 1-9. The HU Youth Division on the Edmond J. Safra Campus is offering on-site activities for children aged 3 to 6. The activities are open to all, with priority for young evacuees from the South and those with parents in the security services.

Financial assistance

The Jerusalem School of Business Administration has set up a project to help small businesses negatively affected by the war.

Legal Assistance

The Clinical Legal Education Center at the Faculty of Law is offering assistance, guidance, and information on diverse legal issues to the general community through its Online Legal Hotline on Facebook, which it initially established during the COVID pandemic. The Hotline is overseen by lawyers and social activists who offer help with a wide range of issues such as National Insurance rights and benefits, workers’ rights, registering with the Employment Service, public housing, rental assistance, debts, the rights of people with disabilities, and dealing with government agencies.


Support for the Military: The University provided diverse logistics equipment to several military units.

Assistance in identifying those killed: Faculty of Dental Medicine volunteers are helping to identify the bodies of those killed.

Support for the Ministry of Health is being offered by the Department of Psychology.

Donation of essential equipment: the Faculty of Dental Medicine has made donations of vital equipment.

Faculty members and students volunteer and assist. Such activity includes donating blood and volunteering in civilian distribution centres set up to organise volunteer efforts such as collecting, packaging, and distributing donations of food, clothing, and other needed supplies to the military and to those who were evacuated from the South. Our community members are also volunteering to create and translate information about the situation and to send to contacts abroad for informative and advocacy purposes, and to provide lessons on Zoom for all levels and ages on a variety of school subjects and enrichment topics. Specific examples include Faculty of Humanities researchers volunteering at the “Brothers in Arms” distribution centre in the South, and a faculty member emeritus in the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment coordinating a volunteer unit in a small town. The Unit for Community Involvement at the Dean of Students office is identifying civil society organisations and initiatives requiring assistance and sharing these needs with the University community at large.


The Student Union is also working to connect students with civil society organisations in need of volunteers. Thousands of students are volunteering in various organisations, including Magen David Adom (ambulance services), HMO’s, Iron Hearts, the Jerusalem distribution centre, Tel Aviv Compassion, Gedera distribution centre, providing editing and translation services for families of missing persons, children’s activities for evacuees from the South, and more. A group of students has taken it upon itself to attend funerals and visit the families of the bereaved. Even some students who were themselves evacuated from the South have joined volunteer efforts, including in hospitals.


The Hebrew University provides extensive assistance in multiple areas to students, staff, and faculty members serving in the reserves including financial assistance, emotional assistance and, once the academic year begins, academic assistance:

1. Support for reservists – reservists who were called up will not be charged rent for dormitory housing for the month of October. In addition, as per a decision made by all research universities in Israel, tuition payment deadlines will be postponed until after November. Further, extensive scholarships will be awarded to reservists once they resume their studies.

2. The University is in contact with, and provides assistance as needed to, families of employees who have been drafted into the reserves.

3. Supporting students and faculty who reside in the Gaza border area – the Dean of Students is in contact with each of the approximately 200 Hebrew University students who are residents of the Gaza border area – to hear their stories, to offer support, and to help them access their rights and relief efforts. Intervention and assistance will be provided as per students’ requests. The Human Resources Division of the University is in similar contact with academic and administrative staff who are residents of the Gaza border area.

4. The Psychological Counselling Services of the Dean of Students office is operating a hotline for students and staff and expanding the activities of their emergency intervention team.

5. The Director of the Psychological Counselling Services is holding meetings with students in various academic units to discuss coping mechanisms in crisis situations.

6. The University is offering crisis intervention workshops for staff as needed.


1. The Dean of Students Office is supporting students and their immediate family members who were injured, killed, or captured by Hamas. This includes attending funerals, shiva, and mourning tents. The Human Resources Department similarly acts in cases affecting academic and administrative faculty members.

2. The Human Resources Department sends care packages and provides support and referrals for needed services to bereaved employees and/or their families, as well as families of those injured or missing.

3. The Hebrew University publicises a newsletter twice a week to the University community containing webinars, podcasts, relevant HR notices, and activities for children.

4. The Hebrew University is assisting employees who have had to evacuate their residences in the South and assessing how best to help.


1. The University is offering webinars on stress management.

2. The aCHORD Center provides free counselling to academic and administrative staff regarding all issues related to the fragile interface between Jews and Arabs in Israel as well as at the University.

Initiatives for mutual assistance

Initiatives for mutual support are taking place within various academic units, including the Benin School of Computer Science and Engineering, the Faculty of Social Sciences, the Faculty of Humanities, and the Faculty of Law. These initiatives bring together faculty, administrators, and students to support one another.