||Challenging myths and presenting facts about
RELIEF: Israeli groups coordinate their worldwide disaster
|London - published on 14 May 2003
Beyond Images Ref: 65
In recent years Israel has been involved in
providing emergency relief following earthquakes and other disasters
in various parts of the world such as Turkey, Russia, India,
and Colombia, South America. The following report relating to
these projects appeared on the website of Israel21c.com
in February 2003.
A humanitarian forum called IsraAID is helping to coordinate
Israeli efforts in providing aid to disaster areas across the
globe. Last week, representatives of a dozen Israeli and Jewish
humanitarian organisations gathered to look at ways of pooling
their respective resources in the most efficient manner.
Israel is at the forefront of worldwide efforts in providing
disaster assistance whenever tragedies strike. The Israeli Army’s
Home Front Command Search and Rescue Unit has participated in
dozens of rescue missions in recent years, including earthquake
and other disaster relief operations.
The guiding light behind the IsraAID initiative is Shahar Zahavi,
a veteran relief worker at the sites of several global disasters.
“I worked in a refugee camp on the Uganda-Rwanda border
in 1994; I was a relief worker after Hurricane Mitch struck
[in Central America]; and I went to India after the 2000 earthquake
there, helping with logistics and working behind the scenes”
Zahavi says that Israeli humanitarian organisations have been
on alert to help around the world for some time. “When
there was the big earthquake in Turkey, or there was any other
type of disaster – like in Kosovo – there were always
a large number of organisations from Israel who wanted to do
something to help” he said.
Unfortunately, good intentions on their own simply aren’t
enough, Zahavi has discovered. “What usually happened
was that each organisation tried to do something and you ended
up with a mess. You’d find groups working in a particular
area, only to discover, a few weeks later, that others were
already active in the same field.”
Realising that something needed to be done, both to avert wastage
of precious resources and to disseminate the organisations’
messages to the outside world, Zahavi conceived the IsraAID
“The forum has three basic premises,“ he explained.
“The most important one is coordination between the various
groups and pooling their resources to ensure those in need benefit
from them. The second factor is to let the world know that Israelis
are also willing to contribute to the world.
Our material resources may be limited, but we have a huge amount
of expertise – in agriculture, rescue operations, and
emergency medical assistance. There really is very little knowledge
in the world about what we do.
We also want to get our message across in the countries we
help. In my experience, people have responded well to us because
they view our work as people helping other people, without the
Members of the IsraAID forum include the National Volunteer
Council, and Bnai Brith whose director general, Alan Schneider,
says he is delighted with the way the forum is working.
“We wanted to let people know we work on an international
scale. It is so important to get that message out there.”
IsraAID has recently initiated a Jewish humanitarian newsletter
called Tikun Olam which enables Jewish aid organisations from
different parts of the globe that wish to find new ways to improve
their working relationships. The newsletter is available at