News articles on help to Syrian refugees by Israeli and Jewish aid groups.

Rambam Hospital And the Syrian Woman Told to Choose Between Her Life or Her Baby’s

(posted on March 14th 2018, by Aboud Dandachi)

Of the many incredible stories of Israel’s humanitarian efforts for Syrians over the past five years, an overlooked post on the website of Israel’s Rambam Hospital recalls what must be one of the most amazing acts of medical compassion not only in the Middle East, but in recent history. Indeed, this one incident is enough to hold up the staff and doctors at Rambam as a shinning example to be emulated by health professionals the world over.

A pregnant Syrian woman the south of Syria, in her ninth month of pregnancy, developed severe health complications. The Syrian doctors treating her at the time told her that such was the severity of her situation, that a C-section was imperative. Unfortunately, the carrying out of such a procedure would have resulted in the certain death of her unborn child. The woman was basically told that unless she received more advanced medical treatment, it was a choice between her life, or the life of her child.

Not being able to reach Damascus to the north, the unnamed woman left her family and traveled alone to the Israeli border. Once there, she was taken to the Rambam Hospital, and treated by no less of a figure than Professor Ido Solt, Director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and a world renown expert in high risk pregnancies.

The list of departments and medical experts involved in treating the unnamed Syrian woman’s case is long and impressive. Working with Dr Solt were Rambam’s Department of Vascular Surgery and Transplantation, Dr. Igor Kogan, an angiography expert and the Interventional Radiology Unit of the Department of Medical Imaging. A procedure was developed that could not possibly have been performed anywhere else in the region, which allowed the doctors to perform a C-section and deliver the baby in good health. After two weeks recovering at the hospital, mother and child returned to their family in the south of Syria.

No one reading the story above could possibly be failed to be moved and impressed by the amount of expertise and resources that Rambam brought to bear to treat this incredibly difficult case. The hospital itself has been mentioned many times on this blog, as a place where Syrian victims of the conflict have found life saving treatment on numerous occasions.

While countless countries and superpowers have gone to great lengths to wage war in Syria, Israel has distinguished itself by being the one country willing to take risks to treat Syrian victims of the war. As this case illustrates yet again, the level of care Syrians have been receiving in Israeli hospitals has been indistinguishable from that available to citizens of Israel itself. A Syrian woman, unable to obtain critical medical care in her country’s capital city, instead found it in a country that Arabs have been taught for generations to regard as the ultimate evil. As these dark times have proven again and again, Israel is infact the very kind of society that the Middle East needs more of. Israelis have every right to be proud of the efforts of its army and medical institutions in a time of the region’s history were very few participants have distinguished themselves in a good way.

The full story can be read here on the Rambam Hospital’s website.

2018-03-14T11:29:41+00:00 March 14th, 2018|

Syrian Doctors Turn to Israel for Urgently Needed Help with Maternity Health Care

(posted on March 6th 2018, by Aboud Dandachi)

In December 2017, the website Israel21c published an article by Abigail Klein Leichman on the assistance the IDF gave to open a brand new Syrian maternity hospital over the border inside Syria itself. Staffed by Syrian medical staff using equipment donated entirely by Israeli citizens, the hospital has treated over 200 pregnant women, and witnessed 30 births.

According to the article, “the hospital reportedly was opened in November in response to an urgent request from Syrian doctors who saw that many women could not get to the existing maternity hospital due to the difficult conditions.”

It says alot about the current state of the Middle East, that when Syrian doctors were desperate for assistance in providing medical care for pregnant Syrian women, they could not turn to the Iranian-backed despotic regime in Damascus, nor the Arab League, nor the increasingly ineffectual United Nations to provide something as non-controversial and straightforward as maternity medical care.

But such is the state of dysfunction of the Arab world, that it was Israel, a country that had every excuse and reason under the sun to stay above and out of the conflict, who stepped up and provided life-saving assistance to pregnant Syrian mothers and their newborns. Not Iran, nor the Russians, nor the Lebanese or Jordanians, and especially not the Assad dictatorship. Yet again, one is left utterly speechless and at a loss for words at the unprecedented and astonishing humanitarian actions of Israel and its citizens and army. Syrian babies will now be born into the world in a safe and healthy environment thanks to the efforts and donations of a country their parents were taught to regard as the ultimate evil in the region.

And while Israel’s detractors cannot even bring themselves to acknowledge Israel’s humanitarian efforts to Syrian victims of the conflict, not even they will be able to spin Israeli aid to maternity health care as “supporting ISIS and Al-Qaeda”. Of course, to the despotic regime in Damascus and their disgraceful backers, even Syrian babies in opposition areas are “ISIS and Al-Aqaeda”. Fortunately, Syrians have a far more humane neighbor in Israel. It cannot be said enough times, if only more of Syria’s neighbors were as humane as the Israelis, there would have been alot less Syrian refugees in this world.

The entire article by Israel21c is available here.

 

2018-03-06T12:14:53+00:00 March 6th, 2018|

A Study in Contrasts, Israeli and Kuwaiti Treatment of Traumatized Syrians

(posted on February 27th 2018, by Aboud Dandachi)

In 2015, at the height of the exodus of Syrian refugees to countries in the West, the wealthy Arab Gulf countries were very conspicuous in their refusal to take in any Syrian refugees. Indeed, Kuwait used the fact that many of these refugees would be suffering from psychological issues from the trauma of the war, as an excuse to shirk any and all responsibility for their care. Such was the composition and attitude of the group of nations that labeled itself “Friends of the Syrian People”.

Fast forward to 2018, and it took a very enterprising bit of reporting by Daniella P. Cohen over at The Medialine, to bring to light yet another aspect of Israel’s already astonishing and unprecedented care and aid to Syrian victims of the war. In addition to providing treatment to Syrian wounded, cancer patients, and children with hearing disabilities, Israel apparently is even going so far as to provide treatment to Syrians suffering from trauma and other psychological issues.

Israel’s Galilee Medical Center has treated over 2,300 Syrians, forty percent of whom were women and children. In addition to the expected trauma of war, some Syrians arrive at the center unconscious. The shock of finding themselves being treated in an Israeli hospital by Israeli medical staff has been so profound that the center has setup a procedure to acclimatize new patients to their unexpected surroundings.

“Hana Solomon, Director of the Social Work Department at the Galilee Medical Center, stated that while most of the Syrians at the center have “never had the serious problem of classic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there have been those experiencing suicidal tendencies and acute stress reactions. We have had children with depression who were seen by our psychiatrists.” ”

This at a time when even most universal health care plans in better off societies don’t even cover therapy. While the “Friends of Syria” may be content to occasionally write a few cheques for tents to house Syrian refugees indefinitely, Israel continues to astonish, astound and amaze with its incredible humanitarian efforts to a people from a country to which the term “friend” could never have applied since those two countries came into being. Israel’s humanitarian efforts are as ground breaking as they are under reported by most of the world’s media. Medialine isn’t a well known name among media outlets, but to their credit they have reported on an amazing aspect of Israel’s aid to Syrians.

The complete article is available here. 

2018-02-28T00:09:26+00:00 February 28th, 2018|

An Indication on How Comprehensive Israeli Aid to Syrians Has Been.

(posted on 12 February 2018, by Aboud Dandachi)

The Jerusalem Post had a lengthy and detailed piece and video on Operation Good Neighbor, the Israel Defense Force’s efforts to help wounded Syrians and provide aid across the border to Syrian communities in need.

Of particular interest was details of some of the aid provided by Israel NGOs and the Israeli government, whose scope and breadth was very comprehensive in terms of what communities suffering from a war would need:

542,880 liters of gas; 174 tons of clothes; 13 generators; 400 items of medical equipment, such as incubators and surgery room equipment; and 113 pallets holding 2,214 boxes of medicines have been given to Syrian civilians with the assistance of the IDF.

In addition, 6,351 packages of diapers have been sent across the border as well as 600 meters of piping to re-establish ruined water infrastructure, providing running water to 5,000 people in the villages. Mobile caravans have also been delivered to Syrians across the border to use as clinics and classrooms.

It is apparent from the quantity and quality of the assistance that Operation Good Neighbor is providing that this was and remains an extremely serious effort on the part of Israel and Israelis. This is not a case of “cheques for better tents” as often has been the case in the region. Indeed, Israelis are providing aid to Syrians with the same commitment and dedication as they would provide aid to faraway Jewish communities.

The entire article is available here. 

2018-02-12T18:57:17+00:00 February 12th, 2018|

NPR Report on Israeli Civilian Aid to Syrians

 Yotvat Fireizen-Weil, an Israeli volunteer, prepares boxes of children's medicines to be sent to Syria. She says her family sees Syria as the enemy and has found it hard to understand her activism on behalf of Syrians amid the Syrian civil war. Daniel Estrin/NPR


Yotvat Fireizen-Weil, an Israeli volunteer, prepares boxes of children’s medicines to be sent to Syria. She says her family sees Syria as the enemy and has found it hard to understand her activism on behalf of Syrians amid the Syrian civil war. (Daniel Estrin/NPR)

(posted on August 30th 2017, by Aboud Dandachi)

NPR published a report on Just Beyound our Border, a remarkable Israeli civilian aid group that has to date collected over half a million dollars worth of aid and donations for Syrian victims of the conflict there, and which has proven itself more effective than the far better funded UN aid initiatives inside Syria.

Staffed by Israeli civilian volunteers, the group has collected donations from Israelis donors and American Jewish organizations, which are then used to purchase medical supplies. The supplies themselves are delivered inside Syria by the Israeli NGO “Israeli Flying Aid”.

To date, no less than nine Syrian hospitals have received life saving medical equipment acquired by Just Beyound our Borders.

It is a remarkable testament to the compassion and humanity of Israel’s people that so much has been achieved through purely civilian means, especially when contrasted with the near hopeless aid distribution efforts of initiatives run by the UN. It takes an enormous amount of logistics and courage to deliver life saving aid inside a war zone even under the most accommodating of circumstances, and it is astonishing that Just Beyound our Border have been able to do so much for Syrians, under very adverse conditions.

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2017-08-30T14:05:06+00:00 August 30th, 2017|

The Night it All Began, from the Times of Israel

(posted on August 27th, 2017, by Aboud Dandachi)

The Times of Israel published a remarkable article by “Lieutenant Colonel A”, the commander of the IDF’s incredible efforts to provide aid and medical assistance to Syrian victims of the conflict in Syria, and the night it all began.

The colonel recounts the very moment the first group of 25 Syrian children crossed into the Golan to be received by soldiers from the IDF’s famed Golani brigade.

“It was surreal to see a mother holding her little daughter’s hands, almost collapsing from weakness. Instinctively, one of the Golani soldiers on the scene noticed the woman stumble and leapt towards her, gathering the child up in his arms”

There is something highly symbolic in an Israeli soldier instinctively displaying such humanity to a Syrian mother and child fleeing atrocities committed by the Syrian army. Indeed, alone among the region and world’s powers, Israel is the only country that has not sent in proxies to kill Syrians, but has directed its efforts towards saving Syrian lives, rather than adding to the killing.

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2017-08-27T12:52:00+00:00 August 27th, 2017|

A New Jersey Rabbi’s Passover Reflections on the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky

Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky

In an extensive and wide-ranging interview with the Times of Israel’s Lois Goldrich, Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky discussed at length his observations and insights into the Syrian refugee crisis, in light of the Jewish holiday of Passover. As a Syrian, I found myself amazed at the fact that a Rabbi in the USA could, by drawing on the lessons of Passover, feel so much sympathy for Syrian refugees, in stark contrast to the apathy towards us on the part of most of the Arab world, many of whom will be reading countless chapters of the Quran but wont move an inch to provide assistance to Syrians.

Rabbi Pitkowsky is the religious leader of the Conservative Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck, New Jersey. In the interview, the Rabbi posed a very insightful question, relevant not just to the Jewish people but to all the peoples of the world.

What does ‘never again’ mean when it’s not us being attacked?

The Rabbi addressed the complexities of the Syrian refugee crisis; the very notion of Jews helping people from a country in perpetual enmity to the state of Israel, the security risks involved in relocating Syrian refugees to the West, and the charge that some refugees who look to settle in Europe and North America do so more out of economic motives than humanitarian ones.

All these subjects, Rabbi Pitkowsky addressed with observations that were rational and level-headed. The Rabbi displayed a commendably sensible view of the crisis that stands in stark contrast to the xenophobic scare-mongering prevalent in most of American punditry, where politicians are admired for rejecting even five-year old Syrian orphans for relocation to the United States.

The Rabbi also mentioned the strong desire on the part of the congregation’s members to help Syrian refugees, and noted that while Jewish congregations and groups in Canada were deeply involved in sponsoring hundreds of refugee families, a similar option did not exist in the USA. But while the Rabbi admitted he may not have all the answers to this complicated and tragic issue, “The overriding goal is for people not to ignore the issue, and it’s easy to ignore it in our complicated, busy lives.”

As a Syrian who feels let down by his fellow Arabs, I cannot help but admire how the Rabbi’s drawing on the lessons of Passover have lead him to a morally courageous and compassion point of view. In his words;

We’re as free as we can be here in Bergen County, and powerful enough to bring social justice into a seder to cry out for a world that is not what it should be.

Remarkable, that a study of Passover should lead members of a congregation in a far off land, to feel compassion and sympathy to a people who in all likelihood they have never met. In the coming week, many Muslims in the Arab world will be praying five times a day and reading chapter after chapter of the Quran, and yet precious few will be moved to feel the sympathy and compassion for Syrians that Rabbi Pitkowsky expressed. The world, it seems, would be a much better place if more people spent time reading up on the lessons of Passover.

To read the extensive Times of Israel interview with Rabbi Pitkowsky, click here.

2016-04-23T22:02:38+00:00 April 23rd, 2016|

The Syrian child saved by a compassionate miracle in Israel

Illustrative photo of Rambam Hospital staff (TOI)

Illustrative photo of Rambam Hospital staff (TOI)

Just when the vicious wars of the Middle East causes one to dismay of the nature of human beings in general, someone in the region rises to perform an act of compassion that is not just magnificent, but absolutely miraculous. For the sake of an ill five year old Syrian child, Israel performed the modern day equivalent of laying hands on the sick and curing them of their afflictions.

The Times of Israel ran a report on what will go down in history as one of the most amazing acts of compassion in living memory. At Haifa’s Rambam Hospital, the medical staff treated a Syrian child with severe injuries received from being caught in a crossfire between two warring Syrian militias. Rambam hospital has over the past few years been one of the major Israeli hospitals treating Syrians wounded in the war.

What gave this particular child’s story an extraordinary aspect is what happened after her treatment for her wounds. Doctors at the hospital discovered that the child also suffered from cancer. The doctors’ own medical ethics would not allow them to release the child from their care until she had been treated.

To this end, Israel’s security services helped to locate one of the girl’s relatives for a bone marrow transplant. And locate one they did. In another Arab country, officially at war with Israel.

And they bought that relative to Israel to save the child’s life.

Bought. The Relative. To Israel.

If the Arab world in general wasn’t already in an advanced state of moral and ethical decay, this one act of miraculous compassion on the part of Israel’s medical and security teams should have dramatically changed perceptions and attitudes overnight, and not just regarding Arabs’ attitude towards Jews, but towards one another as well.

It is said that darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. For years, the vicious terror group Daesh have enjoyed widespread media attention through deeds of savage barbarity, and the actions of the medical staff at Rambam is the light that has the capacity to drown out the darkness created by Daesh and groups like it.

In the days of scripture, prophets would change the attitudes of entire societies by being shinning examples and paradigms of compassion and kindness. It would take a miracle to drag the Arab world out of its self destructive nature, but Rambam hospital and the Israeli security teams that helped save the unnamed Syrian child have delivered just such a miracle, that in normal times should have been the spark that finally leads to some introspective soul searching among Arabs, not just regarding their relations with Israel, but towards one another.

Evil versus good. As a Syrian, over the past few years I have seen my own country fall apart. As an Arab, I have seen five other Arab countries follow suit. Israelis might not have any oil, but Israeli society has something much more valuable and precious; boundless compassion, even towards those who regard it as an adversary. Day after day, Israelis are proving that their country is the exact moral opposite of the depravity that is Daesh and Daesh-like group, a contrast as stark as light and day.

It cannot be said enough, Syrians owe a debt a gratitude to Israelis. No Arab country has ever gone to the lengths that Israel did to save a Syrian life. Once again, thank you Am Israel.

To read the original Times of Israel article, click here.

2016-04-11T09:52:04+00:00 April 11th, 2016|

When Syrian refugees would rather live next to the Israeli border than in Lebanese towns

An improvised Syrian refugee camp on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

An improvised Syrian refugee camp on the Israeli-Lebanese border, closer to Israeli settlements than to any Lebanese communities.

The Jewish Press website posted an article and video by Israel’s Channel One News, of improvised Syrian refugee camps just opposite the Israeli border with Lebanon. The refugee camps were set up opposite the kibbutzim of Dan, Dafna, and Ma’ayan Baruch, far away from any Lebanese towns or population centers, but very close to the Israeli border. As the report noted, “the new camps are closer to Israeli communities than they are to their Lebanese neighbors”.

It should come as little surprise that Syrian refugees would feel safer living near the Israeli border than in some Lebanese communities. In dozens of Lebanese towns and areas, apartheid-like curfews and restrictions are imposed on the movement and presence of Syrians. In the past, members of the Hizbollah terror group have kidnapped defected Syrian soldiers and activists and handed them over to the Syrian regime’s mukhabarat. Syrian refugee camps near the border with Syria itself have often been attacked and burned down by the Lebanese army.

Syrian refugees elsewhere in Lebanon are vulnerable to horrendous exploitation. In early April 2016, a massive forced-sex and prostitution ring in north Beirut was discovered and dismantled, its victims included over 75 Syrian women and girls, a scale of sexual-slavery comparable to the worst outrages committed by the so-called Islamic State.

It is little wonder that many Syrian refugees in Lebanon look upon the Israeli border as a place of sanctuary. Often, it is far safer for a Syrian refugee to be living next door to an Israeli kibbutz than to live in a Lebanese town or city.

To read the original Jewish News article, click here.

2016-04-04T08:11:28+00:00 April 4th, 2016|

Toronto’s Congregation Darchei Noam hosts interfaith refugee panel

From left, Martin Mark, Habeeb Alli and Naomi Alboim. Photo by Jodie Shupac for CJ News

From left, Martin Mark, Habeeb Alli and Naomi Alboim. Photo by Jodie Shupac for CJ News

In early February Canadian Jewish News published an article on an interfaith panel on refugees, hosted by Toronto’s Congregation Darchei Noam. Attended by an audience of over 250, and moderated by Globe and Mail international affairs columnist Doug Saunders, the panel discussed efforts by Toronto’s Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities to sponsor and integrate refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict.

Naomi Alboim, who had previously been involved with Ontario’s efforts to resettle refugees from Indochina in the late ’70s and early 80s, noted that up to 35 sponsorship groups had been formed under the umbrella of the Toronto based Jewish Immigrant Aid Services to sponsor Syrian families.

We’re responding to this crisis as Jews, because it’s the right, humanitarian thing to do, because it’s an opportunity to put our values of welcoming the stranger and tikkun olam into practice, and as [many of us are] children of refugees, we’re paying it forward.

Yet again, one can only marvel in amazement and admiration that there exists today a society such as Canada’s, where interfaith groups can come together to help strangers fleeing far off wars and conflicts. In an age where most of the world treats refugees from Syria with hostility and disdain, communities such as Congregation Darchei Noam stand out in serving as a source of compassion, light and humanity in one of the darkest times in living memory for refugees.

It cannot be said enough; no one could have blamed Jewish congregations anywhere in the world if they had kept the Syrian refugee crisis at arm’s length, and left the task of assisting and resettling those refugees to Muslim communities. The fact that so many in the Jewish diaspora have taken the lead in providing assistance to so many Syrians should be remembered,acknowledged and chronicled as long as there are a people called Syrians. We have such few friends left in this world, Syrians have an obligation never to forget those like Toronto’s Congregation Darchei Noam who did indeed help and assist us in our darkest days.

To read the entire article by CJ News, click here.

2016-03-22T00:07:30+00:00 March 22nd, 2016|
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