Sderot rocket hits near U.S. Jewish leaders


(JTA) — A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed about 20 yards from a delegation of top American Jewish leaders on a solidarity visit to Israel.

The group from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations had arrived just three hours before on a three-day mission to show support for the government and people of the beleaguered south.

Early in the evening of Jan. 1, the Sderot mayor and regional army leaders greeted the delegates when a Code Red alert sounded warning of a missile launched in the direction of the community from Gaza. The alert sent the Jewish leaders to take shelter in a protected police station. The missile landed about 20 yards from the building, according to publicist Amiram Fleisher.  

The delegation is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the chairman of the Likud Party, Benjamin Netanyahu. The members will be briefed by key military officers and policymakers.

The visiting group includes Harold Tanner, a past chairman of the Presidents Conference as well as its interim chairman now, and Malcolm Hoenlein, the group’s executive vice chairman, and Alan Solow, the president of the Jewish Community Centers Association who has been nominated to chair the Presidents Conference. It also features past Presidents Conference chairs Kenneth Bialkin, chair of the American-Israel Friendship League; Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress; and James Tisch, past chair of the United Jewish Communities.

"We’re paying this visit to show our support and solidarity with the people and government of Israel as they confront Hamas terrorism and the continuous rain of rockets on civilian populations," Tanner and Hoenlein said in a statement. "We take seriously the threats issued by Hamas and their Iranian sponsors to destroy the Jewish state and threats against Jewish communities everywhere. We hope that our visit will show those on front lines, civilian and military alike, that we are with them in body and in spirit, that we pray for their well being and stand together with them in battle for lasting peace and security."

Also Sunday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) flew to Israel for a day on a solidarity mission. The lawmakers visited in Sderot and Ashkelon with former New Yorkers now living in Israel.

Bloomberg and Ackerman had to take cover in a bomb shelter during a Code Red alert.

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