Is­raelis there to help as the boats land

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ROSA DO­HERTY

IS­RAELIS HAVE been among the first to as­sist refugees who are flee­ing war for the safety of Europe, and at the same time have strength­ened ties be­tween Jews and Mus­lims.

Fif­teen Is­raAid vol­un­teers are work­ing on the Greek is­land of Les­bos, where boat­loads of peo­ple flee­ing con­flict in Syria, Libya and Afghanstan are ar­riv­ing.

Naama Gorodis­cher, global pro­grammes man­ager for the Is­raeli NGO, said: “The peo­ple are sur­prised and ex­cited to meet us. Of­ten it is the first time they have met an Is­raeli or Jewish per­son, so it has had a re­ally pos­i­tive im­pact and coun­ters any­thing they may have thought or felt be­fore.”

Most of the aid work­ers are Ara­bic speak­ers. Ms Gorodis­cher said: “It re­ally helps; we are of­ten the only peo­ple who can speak to the refugees in their lan­guage and that com­forts them a lot.”

She added that the cri­sis pre­sented a fresh chal­lenge. “As an aid char­ity we are used to pro­vid­ing aid in a des­ig­nated spot. This is dif­fer­ent be­cause peo­ple are on the run.

“They want to move on straight away. Any help we give has to be ac­tive be­cause they don’t want to stay.”

Is­raAID vol­un­teers pro­vide refugees with food, wa­ter, blan­kets, toi­letries and maps for their on­ward jour­neys.

Shachar Za­havi, Is­raAid found­ing di­rec­tor, said the char­ity was hop­ing to in­crease its re­lief ef­fort.

He said: “We started to help a month ago and we are the only Is­raeli and Jewish char­ity work­ing with hands on the ground.

“Our plan is to raise more money and send more peo­ple to help.”

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