As the conflict between Israel and Gaza escalated, Long Branch resident Ken Rubenstein followed the news and pledged his support — but still felt he needed to do more.
So when Rubenstein, president of the American Technion Society’s NY Metropolitan regional board, heard ATS was organizing a solidarity mission to Israel, he said, “I dropped what I was doing and signed up right away. This is a time of crisis, and it’s important for us in the U.S. to step up and show support.”
During the first stop of the Aug. 10-13 trip, the Technion campus in Haifa, the delegation’s nearly dozen participants met with university president Peretz Lavie, toured ATS projects that aim to keep students safe — such as the D. Dan and Betty Kahn Technion Protective Shield Fence — and learned what still needs to be done to further secure the campus.
Rubenstein, who is also an ATS national board member, said that meeting Technion professors working on security-related research and with executives of Israeli defense companies Elbit and Rafael Advanced Systems brought home to him the importance of Technion to Israel’s security. “High-tech systems such as the Iron Dome anti-missile system — which was developed mainly by Technion graduates — are pivotal technologies for Israel’s defense,” he said. “And the Technion provides the engineering brainpower and manpower that make this possible.”
Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper recently reported that Technion provides the highest percentage of reserve soldiers of all the Israeli universities, with more than 600 Technion students serving in Operation Protective Edge.
The delegation included VIP briefings with leaders and a visit to an Iron Dome battery, as well as opportunities to meet wounded soldiers, student reservists, and Israelis living under threat of rocket fire. “The media is portraying the Israeli military in a highly negative light,” said Rubenstein. “But these are people who are not interested in doing harm. From their perspective, this is a defensive war to protect their homes and families.”
Rubenstein said he was moved by a visit to Moshav Netiv HaAsara and the town of Sderot, both located on Israel’s border with Gaza. “We saw what it’s like to live under the threat of constant rocket fire,” he said. “A playground with swings and slides has a bomb shelter painted like a caterpillar next to it. That so encapsulates what life has become for these people.
“It’s intolerable and has to be stopped. No country would put up with it.”
He emphasized the importance of visits to Israel during this time. “We hope that the people we visited understand that we are concerned about them, and that they are not alone,” he said.
Rubenstein, a partner in the New York office of law firm Proskauer Rose, and his wife, Randee, last year became full-time residents of Long Branch after 30 years in West Orange, where they were both active with Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ — Randee as a Women’s Department officer and a Lion of Judah — and are longtime members of Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob & David of West Orange.