Israelis there to help as the boats land
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.”