Israel, the Little Engine that could — helps victims from Hurricane Harvey, then survivors from Mexico’s 8.1 earthquake, and now Hurricane Irma. Unfortunately, all Israelis have advanced degrees in tragedy — but one benefit is they know how to help in urgent, stressful situations. After all, it’s a requirement in our Jewish traditions of Tzedakah (the giving of charity) and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), commanding Jews to do what we can to assist others.
Israel, acted as first responders to Texas. Israel’s government approved a donation of $1 million to Houston’s Jewish community. MK (Member of Knesset-Israeli Parliament) Naftali Bennett said, “The city of Houston was hurt badly last week, and the Jewish community, 70% of which lived in the flooded neighborhoods, was hit hard…Schools and synagogues were flooded and can’t be used. The old-age home and JCC [Jewish Community Center] were damaged, and hundreds of families will remain homeless.1
IsrAID and iAid, Israel’s chief humanitarian aid groups sent relief teams and crucial supplies to help during Tropical Storm Harvey. Itai Bar-Dov, a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Washington said, “They will be receiving the aid and help with the distribution. For years the Jewish communities stood by Israel when it needed their help; now it is our turn to stand by Houston’s Jewish community.”2
Turning to Florida, a team from Israel Rescue Coalition (IRC) and United Hatzalah (UH) arrived in Miami on Sunday and will be joined by four people from the US who will be in charge of running logistics and organizing community response for the groups. Among the volunteers are search and rescue veterans, medical and psychological first-aid responders, diving teams, veteran EMS and natural disaster personnel, as well as a group of UH Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit members, as reported by Israel21c.3
Teams from IsraAID will assist primarily in debris cleanup, helping local residents with their homes and offering psychosocial support, and Israel’s ZAKA search and rescue organization has two command centers in Miami led by volunteers ready to respond to the local communities. The centers are stocked with generators, sleeping bags, food, water and any necessary equipment for search-and-rescue teams.4
“ZAKA has accumulated extensive experience and significant expertise in tens of natural disasters around the world, offering assistance in search, rescue and recovery to those in need. We intend to offer help in the best and most professional way we can, focusing on evacuation of stranded residents and treating the wounded,” said ZAKA International Rescue Unit chief officer Mati Goldstein.5
ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav added, “ZAKA volunteers are currently spread out across Florida and Houston and, if necessary, we will send volunteers to other areas as well. These volunteers are more concerned with helping others than thinking about themselves. They are there, in the name of the Jewish people, to help and show real solidarity in keeping with our values and the promise that ZAKA has taken to help everyone, Jew, Christian or Muslim. ZAKA will help all those in need, regardless of race, religion or gender.”6
Israel announced last week they would also help aid Mexico after their 8.1 earthquake. Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, reiterated the pledge during his visit to Mexico. The Foreign Ministry said it would provide aid for the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas hardest hit. The earthquake killed at least 65 people, 37 from Iuchitan, Oaxaca alone.
Israel demonstrated their hearts, compassion and citizens can travel miles to help. As we head into the Sabbath I know, I’m grateful for our family and friends being safe and healthy. I pray for others who are not as fortunate, and I’m thankful for those with the skills to help who are there working tirelessly to save lives and ease pain. I am able as our religion says, to donate and so I have. Maybe you are able — please do. If not financially, perhaps a smile for the next person you see. It’s all worthwhile and puts out into the ether just a bit more goodness. Everyone could use some.
As always, I invite you to Join Me on My Journey…
1 “Israel sends $1 million in emergency aid to Hurricane Harvey victims,” i24news. https://www.israelandstuff.com/israel-sends-1-million-in-emergency-aid-to-hurricane-harvey-victims (accessed 9/11/2017).
2 “Israel sends $1 million in emergency aid to Hurricane Harvey victims,” i24news. https://www.israelandstuff.com/israel-sends-1-million-in-emergency-aid-to-hurricane-harvey-victims (accessed 9/11/2017).
3 “Israeli Aid Teams Dispatched to Florida to Help with Cleanup Following Hurricane Irma,” Staff reporter. https://baltimorejewishlife.com/news/print.php?ARTICLE_ID=92149 (accessed 9/11/2017).
4 ” Israeli Aid Groups Ready to Help with Hurricane Irma Disaster,” Americans United with Israel. https://americaunitedwithisrael.or g/israeli-aid-groups-ready-to-help-with-hurricane-irma-disaster/ (accessed 9/15/2017).
5 “Israeli Aid Groups Ready to Help with Hurricane Irma Disaster,” Americans United with Israel. https://americaunitedwithisrael.org/israeli-aid-groups-ready-to-help-with-hurricane-irma-disaster/ (accessed 9/15/2017).
6 “Israeli Aid Groups Ready to Help with Hurricane Irma Disaster,” Americans United with Israel. https://americaunitedwithisrael.org/israeli-aid-groups-ready-to-help-with-hurricane-irma-disaster/ (accessed 9/15/2017).