Israelis also need humanitarian aid

Volunteers Provide Humanitarian Assistance for Southern Israelis

Press Release, Yad Sarah, January 14, 2009

(Jerusalem, Israel- January 14, 2009) Since the onset of the conflict in Gaza three weeks ago, the international media has been emphasizing the humanitarian challenges that have been developing in Gaza, but little is known about the needs of the million residents of southern Israel who have been under constant attack from the rocket barrages emanating from Gaza. As a result, there are widespread international efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the Arab residents in Gaza who are innocent victims of the conflict, but none for the innocent victims in Israel. Receiving little assistance from international relief organizations, Israelis realized that they must fend for themselves and band together to provide assistance for the beleaguered citizens of the South. Within days following the onset of the conflict, over 40 Israeli organizations united to form an umbrella group called All Together Now, to integrate humanitarian services for the civilian victims in southern Israel.

All Together Now, or Kulanu B’Yachad in Hebrew, is located in Jerusalem in offices provided by Yad Sarah, a large non-profit social service organization serving all of Israel. It is staffed for 18 hours per day, by about 25 dedicated volunteers. The center is closed Friday evening and Saturday for religious observance. The three coordinators, Avital Sela, Ashira Landau, and Naama Cohen are there for most of the time. Ms. Landau noted that most of the volunteers are young women who are doing their required national civil service but they are putting in time at the center in addition to their required time for national service. Students and senior citizens are also volunteering. When asked how many hours she puts in, Landau responded, “I’m here everyday from 7 am to 1 am, except Saturday”

All Together Now provides assistance in five general categories: housing, transportation, food, household items, and recreational activities for children. The volunteers receive calls from people needing assistance and people offering assistance. The coordinators collect the phone messages and then meet to match the providers with the recipients. If a needed service has not been offered then the coordinators will call suitable providers to obtain the needed services. In addition, almost 2000 volunteers have been sent to southern towns to assist with shelters that house about 30 people each, mostly children.

The office receives about 1000 calls per day, all from within Israel. The calls come primarily from the seven towns that are receiving the brunt of the rocket barrage, and the numerous Israeli citizens, businesses, and organizations that are eager to provide assistance. Routine life in the southern towns has ceased to exist. Children are unable to go to school while their parents are unable to work. Comfortable homes have been abandoned for the safety of cramped, concrete shelters. On one day last week, there were 400 calls from people willing to provide housing for the southern residents and 500 calls involving assistance for children living in shelters or requiring escorts. The remaining calls involved basic household needs, recreational activities for children, and transportation services.

Several days ago, Rabbi Michael Aronov, director of a Hesder yeshiva, called that he can put up some families this weekend because the students will be going home. The same day, a refugee from Gush Katif, whose family is still living in a temporary trailer, called that the Bar Mitzvah for his son was cancelled this week because of the incessant barrage of rockets. Landau immediately called Aronov who said that he could house 13 families and provide a synagogue and catering facility for 80 people. This was exactly what was needed. Landau observed that, “Miracles like this happen everyday.”

A small hotel in Eilat provided free rooms for a family of five that included two children with cerebral palsy, and charged only about $35 per day to feed the entire family. An assisted living center provided a room for a person with a disability who required handicap access. In one day, six tons of fruit were donated by a distributor in Nahariya and a full truckload of sanitary supplies were donated by a large manufacturer. Recreational activities were provided for over 100 children and free admissions to museums were offered. Financial assistance was also provided for many who needed it.

Landau emphasized that much more still needs to be done. There is still a dire need for financial assistance, housing, food, materials, and volunteers. Those wishing to donate their time, money, services, or materials should call the center in Jerusalem at 02-644-4828. Additional information can be obtained by calling Community Relations at Yad Sarah, 02-644-4429. Callers from outside of Israel should use the appropriate prefixes. Donations can be made easily and quickly by phone directly to an account at Bank Hapoalim.

At a recent inspirational lecture given for the southern refugees, Rabbi Yigal Kaminetsky observed that the Hebrew words for “war” and “alloy” are similar. In times of war, Israelis have shown that they can forget their differences and meld together for a common cause. Landau noted that All Together Now is an excellent example of Israeli unity and hopes that it will “continue to unite the country and serve as a model for future endeavors in peacetime.”

Source: Yad Sarah Community Relations

This entry was posted in Judaism, Middle East Report, News Articles, Recent Posts, Yad Sarah. Bookmark the permalink.