Humanitarian and International Aid: A Core Israeli Value [Arabic] [French] [German] [Russian] [Spanish]
Israeli search and rescue delegation departs to Haiti
The Israel Project offers its condolences to the survivors of the earthquake in Haiti.
In the wake of the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, Israeli and Jewish humanitarian aid groups are providing critical relief for that nation. Meanwhile, four Israelis in Haiti are reported missing.
Relief delegations from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Home Front Command, IDF Medical Corps and the Israeli Foreign Ministry have left for the ravaged island nation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directed officials from the Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry, and Public Security Ministry to quickly formulate actions plans to assist Haiti.
Other Israeli humanitarian relief organizations sending aid include IsraAID (the Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid), which is planning to send a 12-person team with expertise in recovery, medical assistance and structural engineering.
Said Jonathan Peled, spokesman for the Embassy of Israel in Washington, "Our heart goes out to the people of Haiti. Israel is sending a rescue team, a field hospital and humanitarian aid as part of the international effort to assist the recovery efforts. In the past, Israel has assisted recovery operations in Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, and India, among other countries devastated by earthquakes."
U.S.-based Jewish groups such as the American Jewish World Service, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and B’nai B’rith have set up relief funds and are collecting donations to be sent to Haiti.
Following is background information on Israel’s humanitarian efforts around the world.
Humanitarian and International Aid: A Core Israeli Value
Within a decade of Israel’s founding, the government and its people had demonstrated a deep commitment to engage in humanitarian relief efforts and international development programs. In 1958, Israel adopted an official humanitarian aid agenda as a principal element of the country’s international cooperation efforts. Over the years, the country has extended international humanitarian aid assistance to more than 140 countries, even to those who do not maintain – and even refuse – diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
Israel’s Darfur Refugees
Israel has granted asylum to hundreds of refugees from
Sudan’s Darfur region. According to the UN, more than
400,000 people have been killed in the six-year-old Darfur
conflict, and more than two million more have been
displaced. The conflict has been marked by widespread
atrocities such as mass rape, military attacks on civilians and
In September 2007, the Israeli government granted asylum to
498 Darfur refugees. The following month, the government
(Photo: Israeli soldier with Darfur refugees
Courtesy of IsraAID)
gave 51 of them new homes at kibbutzes – collective living communities unique to Israel – where they now live and work. On Oct. 17, 2007, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that 300 of the Darfur refugees were successfully settled in homes in the southern Negev region. Israel’s foreign ministry announced in September 2007 that it would donate $5 million to victims of genocide in Darfur -- $4 million via international aid organizations and $1 million through the purchase and donation of medicine and water desalination equipment.
There also has been significant grassroots, social activism by Israeli civil society organizations on behalf of Darfur refugees. The Committee for Advancement of Refugees from Darfur (CARD) coordinates and oversees all of Israel’s media efforts and political advocacy aimed at bringing greater public awareness to the Sudanese refugee problem in Israel. Similarly, the Hotline for Migrant Workers, a non-governmental organization, has undertaken legal action for the refugees. The Hotline’s volunteers visit detention centers, take testimonies and provide clothes and phone cards. Among other NGOs assisting Darfurian refugees are the World Union of Jewish Students Institute (WUJS) in Arad, the Jewish Agency for Israel and a number of kibbutzes such as Kibbutz Eilot in southern Israel.
Voice of America recently profiled a 25-year-old Israeli man, Yotam Sheffy, who has dedicated himself to helping provide Darfuri refugees in Israel access to food, medical care and schooling. Sheffy, whose grandparents escaped the Holocaust, said, “There's no difference. And if the doors weren't open there for my grandmother by simple village Christians, not me nor my father would be alive."
Govt.-sponsored International Development Program Provides Wide Range of Services
The Center for International Cooperation, better known by the acronym MASHAV, is the Israel Foreign Ministry’s international development program. MASHAV assists countries striving to alleviate global problems of hunger, disease and poverty by providing technical training and sharing technology to improve quality of life. MASHAV’s projects include: Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security, Crisis Medicine Training, Community Development, Education, Empowerment of Women, Social Change and Humanitarian Aid . One example of MASHAV’s work is its African Market Garden project, which aims to enhance agricultural yields and reduce risk to single-household farm-plots in arid and semi-arid zones . In MASHAV’s Eye Camps program, Israeli eye doctors set up temporary clinics in developing countries for two-week periods to treat preventable blindness and ocular disease. The doctors treat hundreds of patients, perform operations and train local staff.
Disaster Relief: The Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 and the Kashmir Earthquake of 2005
The Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004 was one of the worst natural disasters in history. Israel sent 60 tons of aid to Indonesia, which was well-received by a country with the largest Muslim population in the world, and no ties with Israel. The Israeli government also sent a small number of Israel Defense Forces personnel with 82 tons of relief supplies, including medicine, water, food, blankets, tents, nylon sheeting and electric generators to Sri Lanka. The Israeli charity organization ‘Coah Latet Meir Panim’ (The Power to Enlighten Faces) contributed 250,000 water-purifying tablets, 1,000 water containers, medical equipment and medication. Magen David Adom (Red Star of David) – Israel’s division of the International Red Cross – in cooperation with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent (used in place of the Red Cross in many Islamic countries) , dispatched additional urgent medical supplies to hospitals in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo, including more than 4,000 vials of critically needed serum albumin valued at more than $100,000.
Israeli organizations were also involved in providing aid to Pakistan after the November 2005 earthquake in Kashmir. An Israeli NGO, Israeli Flying Aid (IFA), which provides disaster relief around the world, sent a mission to the region and provided thousands of families basic dry food products, blankets, coats, socks, personal clay heating kits and iron sheets to shield temporary shelters from heavy snow.
Fast Israeli Rescue and Search Team
The Fast Israeli Rescue and Search Team (FIRST) is an Israeli NGO that sends search and rescue teams to disaster zones around the world. An earthquake in Peru in August 2007 killed more than 520 people and left 90,000 people homeless. FIRST sent a delegation of three doctors and three nurses to assist those injured by the earthquake. FIRST has also provided relief assistance in Turkey, India, Mexico, El Salvador, Greece, Armenia and New Guinea, among others.
IsraAID (The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid)
IsraAID, founded in Israel in 2001, is an umbrella organization of more than 35 Israeli and Jewish non-governmental organizations and other individuals active in development and relief work around the world and concerned about global issues. Its members include the American Jewish Committee (AJC), B’nai B’rith International, FIRST, the Jerusalem AIDS Project, United Jewish Communities (UJC), Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), Save a Child’s Heart, the Israeli Friends of Tibet and Aid Without Borders (AWB).
According to IsraAID, its members “believe in providing humanitarian aid worldwide to people in need, regardless of religion, race, gender, nationality, age and disabilities.”
IsraAID and its members have provided relief assistance to more than 20 countries including Rwanda, India, Mexico, Congo, Chad, Sudan (Darfur) and Malawi. IsraAID partnered with organizations to bring relief to areas hit by the deadly 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia including Sri Lanka and co-coordinated the first Israeli humanitarian mission on the Kenya-Somali border, during which the Israeli team provided aid to Somali refugees.
The organization, along with FIRST, sent a team of six medical personnel and airlifted almost two tons of medicine and medical equipment to Pisco, Peru, to aid the victims of an earthquake that struck the country on Aug. 15, 2007. The medical team opened several field clinics in areas affected by the earthquake and treated at least 400 patients.
Save a Child’s Heart
Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) is an organization that provides urgent pediatric heart surgery and follow-up care for children from developing countries. SACH was founded in 1995 and has since repaired the hearts of more than 2,100 children from a wide variety of countries including China, Congo, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Jordan, Russia, Sri Lanka and Ukraine as well as to children in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. In January 2009, SACH provided life-saving surgery to a Gazan child related to a top leader of the Hamas terrorist organization. The procedures and other assistance are carried out at the Wolfson Medical Center in the Israeli town of Holon. One notable example of SACH’s work is the treatment it has provided to Iraqi children since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. The organization has treated dozens of Iraqi children, including 6-year-old Iman (see picture) in January 2007.
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