Monday, September 12, 2005

Arutz Sheva News Report

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Israel and various Jewish communities have responded in multiple ways to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, including sending divers, money, advisors, and more.
* An IDF delegation coordinating the transport of humanitarian aid from Israel to the disaster area in New Orleans is leaving this evening for the United States. The delegation is headed by Chief IDF Medical Officer Brig.-Gen. Yechezkel Levy. The delegation will meet with various United States officials and will recommend the coordination of a humanitarian aid delegation to the disaster area. Prime Minister Sharon informed U.S. President Bush that Israel was prepared to dispatch medical and search-and-rescue teams, trauma experts, field hospitals, medical kits and temporary housing equipment.

The Foreign Ministry has called on Israeli companies and organizations to donate vital goods and equipment, and the call has already been answered by many. By request of the American authorities, the items needed are plastic sheeting, water, baby food, disposable diapers, cleaning agents, large tents, medical equipment (excluding medicines), and food.

* A first shipment of Israeli-government sent supplies is to be dispatched to New Orleans today or tomorrow. "Israel was one of the first nations to offer relief aid, if not the first," said Israeli Ambassador to Washington Danny Ayalon. The shipment includes IDF "battle ration" meals, preserved foods, water, blankets, clothes, tents, generators, and sanitary facilities.

* The Orthodox Union has established a fund to aid victims, sent a special representative to Memphis to look into the plight of those New Orleans residents who fled there, and assigned youth advisors to assist the work in Memphis. Together with the Rabbinical Council of America and Yeshiva University, the OU will serve as a conduit for funds designated for communities and families affected by the hurricane. All money collected will be dispersed directly to those in need and no overhead costs will be taken.

* Agudath Israel of America has similarly launched an emergency relief campaign to provide assistance to those whose lives have been uprooted by the Katrina tragedy.

* Magen David Adom has also announced the formation of a special fund for the same purpose.

* A group of Zaka volunteers in the United States is preparing to travel to New Orleans in order to aid in the removal of bodies strewn in the city streets.
Zaka's US branch has coordinated the effort with the Chief of Louisiana Police, Col. Henry Witthorn, and will operate under his command. Zaka is a humanitarian organization dealing with emergency rescue, recovery of body parts, and response to incidents of terrorism, accidents or disasters.

* Israeli volunteer divers headed to New Orleans to help look for bodies in flooded homes. Coordinated by IsraAID (the Israel Forum for International Aid), the Israeli delegation has extensive experience in maritime rescues around the world. The 20-strong delegation includes four doctors. The divers will sift through the murky and poisoned waters with powerful flashlights, expecting to find many of the hundreds or even thousands of dead bodies still trapped in houses or elsewhere.

* Israel's five universities - Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Haifa University, Bar Ilan University and Ben Gurion University - have opened their doors, at the request of the Jewish Agency, to students from New Orleans wishing to study in Israel. The initiative was taken co-operation with the Hillel Foundation for Jewish Campus Life and the United Jewish Communities (UJC).

Tel Aviv University has opened up its medical school to give "academic sanctuary" to students from Katrina-ravaged Tulane University in New Orleans. Hebrew University will accept New Orleans students at its Rothberg International School for a semester or year's studies, and will be housed in the university's Mt. Scopus dormitories. The provost of the Rothberg International School, Prof. Jaime Kapitulnik, left Thursday for the U.S. in order to further arrangements for accepting the students. "In order to ease the way for the students, we will shorten the acceptance process," said Prof.Kapitulnik. "We will also adjust our studies in accordance with their needs and will provide scholarships."

Some 20 students have already shown interest in coming to study in Israel.

* Chabad-Lubavitch volunteers from New Orleans, Houston and elsewhere were active in many ways, including using boats and other means to evacuate people stuck in their homes.

* Daniel P. Aldrich, a professor of Political Science at Tulane University in New Orleans and a graduate of Darche Noam Yeshiva in Israel, was one of those who was forced to evacuate from New Orleans. In an article published by, he wrote as follows:

"...Even though we are homeless and possession-less, we are quite lucky: we are alive and healthy... When we arrived in Houston and found a local kosher restaurant where we could break out of our refugee diet of crackers and peanut butter, someone nearby overheard my family talking about our "adventure" (as we described it to our children). After finishing our meal, we went to the front counter of the restaurant to pay. The Indian manager gestured at an empty table and told us, smiling, "That family paid for you." "What family?" we asked. "That Orthodox family sitting in the corner," he said, who had picked up on our plight; what a kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of God's name... Rabbis and Jews from Israel, from Boston, from Houston have contacted us with offers of aid. Friends and family from around the country tried to contact us, to offer us a place to stay, to tell us that they want to help, to pray for us, to replace the physical things that we lost... I called my rabbi and asked him what we should do. After listening to me rant and rave, Rabbi Friedman said: Imagine that you've been given this time as a gift. Forget about the material things that you lost; those can be replaced. What would you do with this newly acquired free time, when schools are not in session and you have no work responsibilities? I tried to imagine this disaster as a gift from God, and realized that my family and I now have the chance to learn more Torah, to visit with friends and family, to reconnect to what truly matters...Don't think that God is sending these messages to those people who don't want to believe in him, one of my teachers told me; he is speaking directly to you, to us, to those of us who recognize the Creator in all that happens..."

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