Israel Flying Aid Humanitarian Volunteers Risk Life For Other Nations
By Joel Leyden, Israel News Agency , May 28, 2008
Jerusalem —– May 28, 2008 ……. Sometimes with not more than just a few hours notice, the volunteer members of Israel Flying Aid find themselves on unmarked airplanes heading out from Israel for disaster stricken nations. Many of these countries have no political relations with Israel. Some declare themselves as enemies.
Israel Flying Aid members sit cramped for hours on cargo planes, with their heads resting on food, water, medicine, tents, beds and emergency electric generators for those who would starve if not for their brave and humanitarian efforts.
Israeli Flying Aid (IFA) is a non-for-profit, non governmental aid organization which provides life saving aid to people affected by natural and man made disasters in developing countries worldwide. Israel Flying Aid provides assistance to all who are in need by distribution of relief items, medical assistance and any other life saving methods.
Just a few weeks ago the Myanmar government opened its doors to foreign aid for help with recovery efforts after a devastating cyclone. Israel was there. Israeli Flying Aid members were on the ground handing out rice and water bottles to hundreds who waited in line.
The IsrAid organization, which sends help to foreign countries in need, sent Myanmar a highly trained civilian search-and-rescue team and a 10-member team of doctors and nurses. The humanitarian teams brought crucial supplies, including plastic sheeting, food, household appliances and water filters.
“We believe that we need to go into the field and help the people. We cannot just send supplies, as the price for transporting supplies is very costly,” said IsrAid head Shachar Zahavi.
A spokesman from the Myanmar Embassy in Tel Aviv said it was very thankful to the Israel government and the different organizations that have provided money and other aid to help in the desperate situation.
The death toll in Myanmar (formerly Burma) was rising to more than 23,335 and the risk of disease was increasing as Israel Flying Aid took to the skies.
Some experts said that the impact of Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar on May 3, could be worse than the 2004 tsunami, if relief wasn’t flown in immediately. Experts estimate that 1.5 million people have been affected by the cyclone, and some aid agencies believe as many as 100,000 people were killed in the disaster.
Thousands of bodies could be seen floating throughout rice paddies and as the death toll rises, according to media reports, those still alive are homeless and running low on food and safe drinking water.
IsraAID and Israeli relief workers have a long history of helping people around the world in dire need.
Israel Flying Aid sent relief after Hurricane Katrina, they were on the scene giving relief after the 2004 tsunami, and are continually providing support on the Chad-Sudan border, as part of a larger scale program of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS).
Israeli Flying Aid recently held a fundraiser in Herzliya Pituach, Israel to raise funds to support a medical clinic in one of Ethiopia poorest districts. Several of Israel’s well known entertainers, including Berry Sacharof, Dudu Tasa, Ras Daniel and others, supported this effort by performing at the event.
Israel physicians Idit and Amit Dotan are the initiators of this medical program. Both have visited Ethiopia 5 times and volunteered for over a year in the Mother Teresa clinic for HIV/AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa as well as in a clinic in the south, dedicating their time and effort to help some of the poorest people in the country. The clinic, which is located in the South – west of the country in the Gorga district, was renovated by the doctors and equipped with some basic medical items which enable them to treat almost 100 patients a day. The project, though initially a private venture, now needs additional funds. The couple turned to Israeli Flying Aid. Israel Flying Aid has already helped send more medical items to the clinic and is sponsoring the fundraiser, in the hopes that those in attendance will show their support for the project.
Israel Flying Aid also helped victims of a recent earthquake in Indonesia.
The volunteers from the Israeli Flying Aid team, whose work was co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, provided children with post-traumatic stress disorder treatments and served two hot meals daily to 5,200 people.
The efforts in eight Muslim villages won approval from Indonesian government officials, as well as the local Muslim leadership, who asked for the group’s help in reconstructing a mosque destroyed by the earthquake.
The activities of Israel Flying Aid were not reported until just a few weeks ago for fear of potential threats from Islamic terrorists.
Due to their dedication, passion and expertise, Israel relief workers have played a major role in saving thousands of lives. Donations to help fund Israeli relief are provided by organizations and individuals around the world including Mark Solomon from CMS Companies in the US, The Jewish Federation of Toronto, and B’nai B’rith International.
Gal Lousky, the creator of Israeli Flying Aid, was wounded by a Hezbollah Katusha rocket from Lebanon while providing relief assistance at home in the north during the last Lebanon war.
“Not many know that I was wounded, including my mother who I did not want to worry about me,” Lousky told the INA. Lousky, had coordinated a group of Israel businessmen and artists to raise over one million dollars in humanitarian aid within seven days.
Upon witnessing the suffering of innocent Israel civilians being bombed daily by a rain of Katusha rockets in northern Israel and a lack of money for governmental assistance, they moved into high gear. Upon the event’s completion with a rendition of Jerusalem the Gold and all 2,000 participants standing for Hatikva, Lousky was overwhelmed by the event’s success as tears poured down from her eyes. She was not alone tonight. For many others cried as they remembered both the Israel civilians who were murdered by Iran Hezbollah rocket attacks and the IDF soldiers who fell while searching for Hezbollah terrorists.
But perhaps its the humanitarian work that Lousky and the members of Israel Flying Aid provide outside of Israel which truly marks their character.
Members of Israel Flying Aid were aboard a plane carrying clothing, medical supplies, generators and tents to the quake stricken areas of China on Sunday. The Israel donations include emergency supplies stipulated by the China government that reached the stricken area and assisted the victims of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake.
Israel Foreign Ministry officials said the Israel shipment was worth $1.5 million . Livni said it is the minimum Israel can do to express its friendship with China the Chinese Ambassador declared that Israel’s assistance proves that a friend in need is a friend indeed.
And this was a country which openly welcomed IFA.
One can only wonder where the members of Israel Flying Aid would be if the people of Syria, Iran, Lebanon or Saudi Arabia were hit by an earthquake or other natural disaster. We would never know it. But the children of those nations would. And that is exactly what makes Israel a nation which shines her light upon the nations.