By Gila Kalman, Senior Opinions Editor
Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, Jews all over the world have rallied together in order to raise funds and send needed equipment to Israel. Amongst all these amazing efforts, one woman has become the go-to connection between the Ministry of Defense and all the people and organizations looking to help.
Ziva (Lautman) Glanz is a graduate of Stern College for Women and currently lives in Mevaseret Tzion with her husband and five children. Her story begins during her time volunteering with the Chevron Fund at their office in New York City. After spending three months with the organization, the director asked the 20-year-old Ziva to replace the departing associate director due to her impeccable work ethic and skill set. The position changed the trajectory of Ziva’s entire life evoking love for this kind of work and causing her to seek a master’s in public administration instead of going to medical school as she had initially planned. Soon after that she made aliyah and got a job as the director of a master urban plan for the Jerusalem metropolitan area, called Jerusalem 5800.
During her time as the director for this project, Ziva came to realize that hardly anyone in Israel was equipped to manage anything which involved multi-ministerial collaboration. “It wasn’t a concept that was even part of the lexicon here in Israel,” she comments. Seeing this need and wanting to fill it, she became the go-between for international investors and government authorities, helping them navigate Israel’s complicated bureaucratic process. She continues to consult and help investors navigate the system, in order to aid them in creating a successful project. Some of the projects she is currently involved in are the expansions of cemeteries Har HaMenuchot and Har HaZeitim, and the building of new communities for Olim (Immigrants).
Due to this work and her inimitable ability to get done whatever needs to get done, Ziva was appointed deputy head of the Discretionary Fund of Israel. This fund, which was created due to the current war, works in conjunction with the Ministry of Defense in order to fulfill needs of top significance. As the Ministry of Defense is not legally allowed to fundraise, the Discretionary Fund of Israel works with them to find out what the most pressing national needs are, and to fundraise and obtain these needs for them. “I ended up becoming the end point of a funnel,” Ziva says. This means collecting funds and supplies for firefighters, the police, the intelligence corps, the counterterrorism unit, and more. It also means obtaining supplies for everyone from soldiers to medical professionals. One example of the kinds of items Ziva and her team have worked to obtain are bulletproof ambulances. “There are things more classified than that and there are things that are lesser, like drones or civilian response teams that are going to be set up in every city and the gear they will need,” she elaborates.
Managing her life as deputy head of this fund and her life as a mother “is a constant balance that is dynamic and that I evaluate hour to hour,” Ziva comments. While her kids are resilient, she notes how challenging it’s been to provide them with the stability and attention they require, especially in a situation like this. “My phone was ringing off the hook and there were times where I had to just take a few minutes and focus on my kids.” When the war started, there was a lot of pressure on her to stay near the war room, especially on that first Shabbat, so that she could be available (with special permission from a Rabbi) if they needed her. At the same time, her whole family was shaken up and they needed her home. “Do you stay with your family on shabbat or do you go because they’re telling you that you’re needed in the war room? It’s not easy.” In the end, despite the pressure being put on her, she decided to stay home. While some were discontent with her decision, Ziva felt that at that time the priority was her family.
To Ziva, the only way to get through this difficult situation as a nation is to stick together. She makes a point of the unity among the Jewish people, calling the collaboration taking place, specifically on Whatsapp, “astounding.” “The only beautiful aspect to all of this is that everybody in all of Am Yisrael is bringing their best selves to the table” she shares, “everybody’s contributing their piece of the puzzle and only because everybodys contributing their piece do we see this amazing tapestry coming together that has never been done before- in any nation, in any point of time.” Her advice for any of these people who do wish to help but don’t know where to start is “to try to focus their amazing energy into the effective end sources that people are getting to as opposed to just running around trying to figure it out on your own… find the people that are in charge of whatever area you want to get involved with.”
Aside from the heavy burden Ziva carries every day of this war, she holds a lot of concern for her fellow Jews, especially those living outside of Israel. “I don’t think that people in the diaspora realize just how worried we in Israel are about Jews in the diaspora,” she says. She goes on to say that while the situation in Israel is incredibly challenging, she knows that there, she has the entire country working to protect her. In the diaspora anti-semitism is rising at a rapid pace and Jews there are very much on their own in comparison to Jews in Israel. “I would feel better knowing that my family was here than there, even with everything going on here.” She said, “Ultimately, what surrounds me here is a lot more protective than anything that any diaspora Jew has and it’s scary to think about how under threat Jews in the diaspora are right now, whether they realize it or not.” She quotes her great aunt, a 92-year-old holocaust survivor who said, “I’ve seen this before, I can’t believe I’m living through it again in my lifetime.” If there is anything Ziva could say to Jews in the diaspora, it would be that, “Everybody should come back quickly… We have seen every other aspect of the geula (redemption) process happening. Now all we need is the majority of Jews to return home.” Despite the horror, fear, and grief, there are people like Ziva who not only spend every day working to help Israel win this war, but also believe fiercely in the power of G-D and the power of the Jewish people to bring about our redemption.
If you wish to donate to the Discretionary Fund of Israel, please visit https://www.dfisrael.org/.