Special Report by Yaron Shagal:
The organization is a not-for-profit, volunteer-based, Non Governmental Organization (NGO) that delivers life saving aid to communities affected by natural disasters and human conflict.
We are a group of Israeli’s who operate in places where local regimes prevent entry of formal international humanitarian organizations.
We operate in places where local regimes prevent entry of formal international humanitarian organizations. We focus on countries that lack diplomatic relations with Israel, transcending differences, including prejudices, race, nationality, religion and creed.
We are a group of Israeli citizens who love their homeland and believe in a Jewish tradition and culture that values a compassionate, open-minded respect for the sanctity of human life and dignity. We believe we are blessed to be born in a democratic country that enables its citizens to travel to challenging and dangerous places.
Along with this commitment to human life, the organization is also devoted to faithfully defending Israel’s borders and citizens in the face of threat. We are a people who ingathered their exiles and built a “Startup Nation” out of a nation of refugees, a nation that achieved the pinnacle of success in the fields of science, medicine, technology, high tech and agriculture. Today, with such economic power and defense capabilities, Israel feels a moral and ethical duty to become “the voice of the voiceless” and in this particular case, even if it is the voice of the vulnerable populations among some of our toughest and cruelest enemies.
Unfortunately, the harsh reality in which the organization is operating is on behalf of the victims of Assad’s atrocities, which demands us to carry out our activities below the radar and hide our identities. This is in order to protect the lives of team members and local contacts, and to ensure the flow of victims’ needs, such as food, medicine, and basic supplies.
The members of our organization represent the pulsating heart of Israel and believe in the sanctity of human life and dignity as reflected in the Jewish “Halacha” and in the Israeli Declaration of Independence.
“Devote yourself to justice, aid the wronged, uphold the rights of the orphan, defend the cause of the widow”.
Isaiah, Chapter 1, 16-17
“The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will insure complete equality of social and political rights to all its habitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture”. – Israeli Declaration of Independence
Our neighboring countries forbid humanitarian aid, out of fear of political military repercussions; therefore assistance is in the form of cash only, in order to stay under the radar and out of danger. The NGO apologizes for the lack of transparency in this particular case, but this is a direct result of the fear that is dominating in the region right now due to Assad’s reign of terror.
Despite these difficulties, the organization has been sending ongoing missions to help the refugees in neighboring countries; however we have faced some significant challenges, primarily resistance from the host countries. Neighboring host countries all fear Assad’s wrath – political, diplomatic, economic and even military retaliation – and therefore are reluctant to publicly admit that they are absorbing Syrian escapees, so they only allow a limited amount humanitarian aid to be brought in and distributed. Not only then do volunteers have to hide from the host country, but they also must be cautious of Iranian and Syrian intelligence personnel who have infiltrated the host countries and disguise themselves as refugees. They bring information back to the Syrian government, including numbers and names, and also actively try to frighten and hurt the refugees. There have even been reports of infiltrators poisoning the water sources of the refugees. As a result, the Israeli NGO works with cash only: in order to buy the humanitarian aid locally, to stay under the radar, and protect the lives of volunteers and local contacts.
So far we have delivered:
1. Food and equipment:
- 70 tons of sanitation items, including body soap, laundry soap, shampoo, dishwasher soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, tissues, toilet paper, and female sanitation kits
- 120 tons of vital refugee items, including insulating material, mattresses, blankets, iron sheets to build housing units, and water canteens
- 670 tons of food, including rice, oil, flour, lentils, pasta, sugar, salt, canned food
- 300,000 dry meals, which are each made to feed five people for one week
2. Post Trauma Relief
- Post trauma care, which includes the medical clowns we brought to meet with groups of sometimes 200 kids. The children who seem to be seriously struggling are then sent to have a session with both Arab and Jewish Israeli specialists.
- Providing training courses to women from the camps. There is also training for children. Israeli doctors spend 2.5 weeks with these women, who were selected because of their prior social activities in Syria (as nurses, social or community workers. )
3. Media Coverage: We want to broadcast the brutal and honest pictures from the crisis. Therefore we trained young boys ages 15-20 to use the equipment, take shots that the media will want to see, and teach them to remained untraceable, so they stay out of danger:
- 500 digital camera
- 3 satellite transmitters
4. Emergency Medical Aid:
- 20 tons of medications, including IV’s, saline, bandages, and disposable wound treatment, sewing kits for surgery, disinfectant liquid and ointment, and cotton pads
- 2 units of “field surgery tents,” which are as close to a sterile environment as possible to perform surgeries in
- 5 life saving surgeries were performed, including a heart surgery, eye surgery, and cleft palate surgeries
Previous Crisis Areas Our Organization Worked the Victims from the:
Tsunami : Sri Lanka, December 2004
Conflict : Darfur-Sudan, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Floods : Georgia-Chechnya, July 2005
Hurricane : “Katrina”, USA, August 2005
Earthquake : Pakistan-Kashmir, October 2005
Earthquake : India-Kashmir, October 2005
Earthquake : Indonesia-Jawa, May 2006
Cyclone : “Nargis”, Burma, May 2008
Conflict : Georgia-Russia, August 2008
Earthquake : Indonesia-Sumatrae, Sept. 2009
Some of the missions must remain confidential in order to protect team members and local contacts.
About the Refugees
During our missions, we have mostly encountered women and children whose husbands and fathers stayed behind in order to keep the struggle alive. The refugees we’ve met have fallen into three main categories:
Syrians traveling legally: These refugees carry legal documents and valid passports, and usually belong to the higher socio-economic classes. They cross the border legally and go through a short military investigation. They are then released and able to rent homes and build lives in the host country.
Syrians traveling illegally: These refugees are usually from a lower socio-economic status, illegally cross the borders, do not go through military investigations and are not processed or listed. They try desperately to blend and disappear into the local villages. Therefore, they are not eligible for any aid because they do not officially reside anywhere.
Detainees: This includes healthy men, women and children who have been caught by local armies in neighboring countries and are held in army bases for an uncertain time. They are subject to rigorous investigation and their numbers are unknown. Rumors among other refugees state that some are even forced returned to Syria and turned over to Assad. It goes without saying that their fate is then known.
The Needs for Those Displaced in Syria:
The banking system collapsed in Syria and most rebel families could not access their funds. Therefore, all these people have taken with them is their gold and a few precious belongings. It has been over two years and these limited resources to support an entire family have diminished.
Women face severe post traumatic stress from losing their husbands, taking full responsibility of their families, rape, and homelessness. Abortions are not permitted in Syria or in any of the neighboring Arab countries, forcing them to choose between their husbands and babies. If their husbands return home, they might be forced to make an “accident” happen.
These are not women from the third-world, but women who went to the supermarket and worked only two years ago. Now, they are struggling to fight for their own lives and their children’s lives.
Children are also facing post traumatic stress. Many have seen their mothers violently raped, while their mothers have begged for them to remain silent to prevent further harm. They are also constantly faced with adjusting to a new environment.
All basic supplies are needed. There is lack of water, sanitary items, medical equipment, food, and housing. Some of the most common things we have seen are open and infected wounds, eye infections, and amputated, broken bones.