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Israel, Tikkun Olam and the Tsunami

Israel, Tikkun Olam and the Tsunami

The Israeli response to the tsunami displays the nation's ingenuity, deep caring, and professionalism.

by Shachar Zahavi

Sitting here in Israel, it's clear to me just how concerned and compassionate Israel and its citizens are towards the people devastated by the recent tsunamis in South East Asia.

Immediately following the tsunami, Israeli relief and humanitarian organizations, its citizens and government offices made enormous efforts to play a significant role in helping people affected by the murderous waters that has left 150,000 people dead and millions homeless. A national Israeli campaign to aid victims in South East Asia, spearheaded by IsraAID: The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, was established on December 29th at an emergency meeting in Tel Aviv in order to coordinate a meaningful, and effective global Jewish - Israeli humanitarian response directly in the field. "The Israel Campaign for South East Asia Disaster Relief" now includes dozens of Israeli organizations as well as various Jewish groups from North America and around the world.

In Israel, Koach Latet opened dozens of donation drop-off warehouses all across the country in order to receive donations from dozens of schools collecting relief items. Israeli companies donated time and money to help send more supplies which filled planes and ships destined to almost each country affected.


Yet, it is unclear to many people in the Diaspora, how and why such a small country with so many problems offers its assistance to those countries in need, even though some of them have no formal relations with Israel, as is the case with Indonesia.

Many people have turned to me from all over the world asking why Israel is now helping the people in Sri Lanka even though their government asked Israel not to send an IDF delegation of 150 medical personnel, just a few weeks ago. The same can be said of Thailand, a country that asked Israel not to send any more relief doctors.

I would like to clarify that both governments did not specifically reject Israel; rather, they rejected many generous aid offers because of all the chaos on the ground at the time. Now, as the needs are becoming clearer, both governments have specifically asked Israel for various relief specialists.

'The Israel Campaign for South East Asia Disaster Relief' just sent a team of medical and logistical personnel was sent to Sri Lanka following a request by Sri Lanka's Ministry of Health. The team, made up of a variety of member groups, such as Magen David Adom and the Humanitarian Arm of the Kibbutz Movement, is establishing a field clinic which will offer medical assistance with an emphasis on pediatrics and infectious diseases. Along side the clinic, a Jewish Emergency Feeding Station will be erected with three large kitchens serving nutritious meals to thousands of people left homeless. The group traveled with relief items including pharmaceuticals, kitchen supplies and tents and is laying the groundwork for a series of future emergency medical, feeding and children's projects.

Members of Zaka, the group of religious forensic workers who identify body parts after innumerable terrorist attacks in Israel, traveled to a resort area in southern Thailand, together with Israeli dental, fingerprint and DNA experts. Not many are aware of the fact that this group received the enormous responsibility from Thai officials of supervising a 'Disaster Victim Identification Station' to help identify hundreds of dead foreigners.

These are a few of the examples of Israeli's role in alleviating the pain of thousands of East Asians whose lives were turned upside down in a moment. Hundreds of hours have been put into strategizing and implementing plans to determine that each operation is well thought out, with backups, contingencies and support 'on the ground' - producing quality results on shoe-string budgets.


Clearly, years of responding to the prospects and reality of war have turned the Israeli people into a well-honed Tikkun Olam [fixing the world] team. It is clear from the Israeli response to the tsunami that the people of Israel have developed an acute sense of ingenuity, creativity and deep caring, and most of all the professional ability to make things happen quickly and successfully.

The Jewish world should take great nachas - pride - in the knowledge that our people have stepped up to the 'disaster' plate, quietly and with the humility of Jewish heroes of old. Whether it's the Israeli search and rescue teams working in the bombed out embassies in Kenya or crawling through the rubble of buildings in Ducze, Turkey following the country's earthquake, we are indeed a 'light unto the nations', never slowed by inter-denominational or religious differences, compelled only by our belief in the brotherhood of man and the Jewish values of tzedakah (justice through charity), and chesed (kindness).

Since Israel's shaky birth in 1948, it has been forced to fight for its survival. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, the leaders and citizens of the State have always expressed concern for the suffering of others around the world and responded with grace, bravery, ingenuity and generosity.

I encourage you to show your support for Israeli and Jewish hands-on humanitarian activities in the field, in order to ensure that the Israeli flag that represents the Jewish people is recognized as a symbol of humanity and compassion among other nations.

Click here to donate.

I want to personally thank Avrum Rosensweig, the director of Ve'ahavta: The Canadian Jewish Humanitarian & Relief committee for his help in composing this piece.

January 11, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 24

(24) Anonymous, February 13, 2005 12:00 AM

Thank You

Halo, "Dio" is my name.
Indonesia is where I am.
I beg forgiveness for the hearts broken.
I beg forgiveness for all your kindness unspoken.

We didn't mean to veil or refuse.
We were just too blind and confused.

I just wanted to say, that all your kindness had reached us.
We may not see, but our hearts do.
G-d knows, and so do you.

G-d bless you, sincere hearts.
May His Shechinah dwells in you always.
G-d bless you, patient ones.
May His Shechinah grows stronger inside you.
G-d bless all of you, may your journey in finding His Shechinah sweetens your souls even more.

...and when you do find Her,
please remember us.
For we are as blind as a svs and no more clever than a prd.
Our eyes are flooded with hatred even to our own neighbors.
Our hearts are filled with suspicions and prejudices, that we don't even know ourselves.
Forgive us of what we did, said, and thought about you that were unfair.

Go on your way to re-unite with Him.
Let not our dry comments and cold hands hinder you.
He is the Water that will quench our thrists and the Light that will bring warmth into all the people of the world.
You have the Wisdom of the Wise.
Inside you lies the Covenant that was made between you and Him.

I've always yearned for a time when we all can say to each other without barriers.
I've always yearned for a time when I can no longer ask, "What country are you from?".
I've always yearned for a time when I can no longer ask, "What religion are you?".
I've always yearned for a time when I can say to you, my brother, my sister, my mother, and my father.
... and I've always yearned for a time when I can say to Him...Father. Sincerely.

I hope we can all get together. I'll buy you coffee, or a cup of tea.

Shalom Shalom Shalom
(damai sejahtera).

(23) Consuelo Madero, January 27, 2005 12:00 AM

Tikun Olam

We don't need the world to know, we don't need to yell what we do, God knows, and so will eventually many people will. Remember tikun olam!! let's continue doing good wherever we go. People are not blind,,, they will know. Our local synagogue had a fundraiser for the tsunami victims, I was glad that I could contribute, I don't expect a thank you, I expect somebody to have one or two meals in their table because of my contribution. I have jewish friends, black, mexican chinese, muslims, it's not about their culture or religion it's about each individual behavior towards me and the rest of the people.

May God bless all of the world, and shalom to all.

(22) Anonymous, January 21, 2005 12:00 AM

Help Not Wanted

I sincerely and honestly feel the need
to exclaim with all my lungs: that
no moslem nowhere in the world would
accept jewish help or the Israeli charity that comes in the form of IDF. Please understand the moslems distrust.

(21) Noor Ahmed, January 20, 2005 12:00 AM

Allahu Akbar!!!!

I am an Indian Muslim living in CT, USA.
The words Allahu Akbar means God is Great in Arabic and I chose these words because this was my reaction to Israel's humanitarian outreach to millions of Muslims affected by this tragedy. The Jews of Israel have practiced true ISLAM!!! :-O I have many Jewish/Israeli friends and they have been some of the kindest people I have met. They never say derogatory things about my faith or people. Unfortunately, the case with many of my Muslim friends is the opposite. We Muslims speak often of brotherhood of man, but here is Israel practicing it. I affirm Israel's right to exist and see Israel as a positive force in the region. I allow you to print my name, but with some apprehension. May Allah protect me for speaking the truth. May your light continue to shine. Peace and love to all.

(20) mike levine, January 18, 2005 12:00 AM


I, Mike Levine, citizen of Israel and the United States, accuse you, NY Times, LA Times, Boston Globe, Denver Post, Atlanta Constitution, CNN, Times of London, and thousands of other newspapers and TV networks worldwide. I accuse you of gross bias against, and naked hatred towards the
Jewish state of Israel.
For years most of you have shown a clear bias in favor of the Arab Muslims and Palestinians, taking every opportunity to demonize Israel, the only Democracy in the Middle East, and the only Jewish state in the world.
But in the past two weeks you have raised your hatred to a new high, while your journalistic standards have fallen to new lows.
While coverage of the earthquake and tsunami in Asia has been extensive, and your reporting of international fund raising and rescue efforts has been massive, you wrote hardly a word about the fact that Israel was one of the very first to offer substantial aid and send medical rescue missions to the stricken areas! Within hours planeloads of well trained rescue people and experienced trauma doctors were on their way.
Israel is one of the tiniest nations on earth, with a total population far less than many cities of the world, yet in the first hours following the earthquake and flooding, Israel assembled hundreds of doctors and other medical personnel, many planeloads of medical supplies, tents, food, blankets, even baby diapers. While other, much larger, much richer nations, were still rubbing their eyes in disbelief, Israel was already setting up many aid stations in the worst hit areas.
I accuse world media of gross incompetence. I accuse world media of abrogation of journalistic integrity. I accuse world media of sheer and transparent prejudice against Israel and the Jews. I accuse world media of pandering to the Islamic nations hatred of anything Jewish.
Only a few publications outside Israel mentioned the major contribution being made by Israel. Only a very few pointed out that Israel's per capita contribution of manpower, equipment, supplies,
Only a few bothered to mention that only a tiny trickle of aid was offered by all of the world's Muslim nations, nations sitting on half of the world's oil reserves, nations raking in billions of dollars daily, nations
whose elite live lives of such opulence as can hardly be imagined by most of the world's masses.
Saudi Arabia sat unmoved for a week while the world scrambled to raise funds and send massive aid, then magnanimously pledged a measly ten million dollars, a pledge which has yet to be paid! Imagine, this
from a brother Muslim state, a state that provided families of Palestinian suicide bombers with $150,000,000 during the past year alone!
Kuwait, the second richest Muslim nation, pledged an equally paltry ten million!
You people in Chicago. Did you read any of this in your newspapers? How about you good people in Dallas? Paris? Berlin? Melbourne? Did any of you read or hear of Israel's incredible generosity of spirit, manpower, and money? Did you read one editorial praising the fact that the Jewish state unselfishly came to the immediate aid of Muslim nations that have long called for the destruction of Israel?
No, chances are you did not. Maybe you ought to let your editors know how you feel about their treatment of Israel and the Jewish people. Because if you don't speak out, they will continue to believe no one gives a damn about Israel, and they will continue speaking of Israel only in negative terms, writing only about how the Jewish state mistreats the Palestinians and their terrorists.
Join me when I say to world media loud and clear .J'ACCUSE!

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