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The stories of Israel’s reach-out to Haiti are endless. Here is an account for the Cleveland Jewish News:
In the wake of the earthquake that devastated Haiti on Jan. 13, countries, organizations and individuals around the world have rallied supplies, personnel and donations for the rescue and recovery efforts.
Israel and the Cleveland Jewish community have been no exception, taking significant roles aiding those in need.
The Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland’s Endowment Fund Committee immediately recommended the organization make a $10,000 emergency grant to relief efforts. (Formal board approval of the grant was expected after press time.) The Federation also is collecting donations on behalf of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) non-sectarian relief efforts.
Many other Jewish organizations have joined in fundraising efforts for aid to Haiti. Israeli groups have been on the ground in Haiti since almost the beginning, with more en route.
Israel’s ZAKA International Rescue Unit described the past weekend’s aiding in rescue efforts as the “Shabbat from hell.” The six-man ZAKA delegation (four Israelis and two Mexicans) flew into Port-au-Prince on a Mexican air force transport plane immediately after completing recovery and identification in a Mexico City helicopter crash last week. Using Mexican military equipment, ZAKA rescued eight students from a collapsed eight-story university building 38 hours after the building collapsed in the earthquake.
The rigorously Orthodox ZAKA team took time out to recite Shabbat prayers amid the rubble.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry sent a 220-person delegation to Haiti the day after the quake hit. El Al leased jets to the Israeli Defense Forces to transport the delegation, which included Israeli police rescue teams and a Home Front Command field hospital – said to be the first functioning emergency hospital on the ground.
Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center dispatched senior medical staff to run the field hospital, including specialists in emergency response, trauma surgery, OB/GYN and infant care. On Sun., Jan. 17, a baby boy (one of two babies) was born at the Israeli field hospital. According to reports from The Israel Project, the mother said she would name the baby Israel.
Also part of the delegation were teams from Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s version of the Red Cross. MDA sent an additional team of paramedics to the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s neighbor, over the weekend. (Because of the damage to the Port-au-Prince airport, many rescue teams and aid workers have been forced to fly into the Dominican Republic and travel by land into Haiti.) The new team will lend support to a Norwegian Red Cross field hospital.
The MDA is also working with the Israeli Foreign Ministry to airlift in an Israeli-manufactured water purification system this week. The destruction from the quake has left many Haitians without clean, safe drinking water.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Given Israel’s security needs, we have accumulated much search-and-rescue experience over the years. We have applied this experience previously in disaster scenes throughout the world – in Mexico, Argentina, Armenia, Kenya, Turkey and elsewhere. I hope and wish that the Israeli mission will succeed, this time as well, in saving as many lives – children, parents and families – in Haiti as possible.”
For ongoing news about Jewish community response to Haiti, visit www.jta.org. The Israel Project, www.theisraelproject.org, maintains on ongoing list of Israel’s response to the crisis.
Jews in Haiti: a brief history
In 2007, it was reported that maybe 50 Jews remained among Haiti’s population of more than 8 million people. But in earlier times, there was a stronger presence.
The first Jewish immigrants came from Brazil in the 17th century, after Haiti was conquered by the French. Most were murdered or expelled along with the rest of the white population during Toussaint L’Ouverture’s slave revolt in 1804. Archaeologists discovered the remains of a synagogue in Jeremie, a city along Haiti’s southern peninsula, and it is believed there are Jewish tombstones in the port cities of Cap Haitien and Jacmel.
By the end of the 19th century, Sephardi Jews began arriving from Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. In 1937, Haitian officials began issuing passports to Eastern European Jews fleeing the Nazis. Many of those Jews stayed until the late-1950s, when the country’s poverty and violence drove most to move, primarily to the U.S. or Panama.
by Jonathan Rosenblum
Life in Israel never lacks for things to worry about: Iranian nukes, tens of thousands of missiles in the hands of Hamas and Hizbullah, a critical water shortage, the religious-secular divide. But at least the Israeli economy is strong – or so I thought.
Titles like the recent Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle celebrate Israeli entrepreneurship and portray little Israel as an economic titan. Israel attracts 2.5 times the venture capital per person of the United States; 30 times that of Europe. Israel leads the world in patents on medical devices and is a world leader in biotech and cleantech. More Israeli companies are found on the NASDAQ than those Europe, China, and India combined.
But such statistics, unfortunately, tell only part of the story, as I learned in two recent meetings with Professor Dan Ben-David, director of the Taub Center, Israel’s leading independent think tank providing information and analysis to government officials. He paints a gloomy picture of Israel’s economic future strangely at odds with the boyish enthusiasm of his presentations.
From 1948 to 1973, Israeli living standards and productivity grew at a rate that placed Israel on a trajectory to overtake the United States within a few decades, even encumbered by a socialist bureaucracy. Today, despite Israel’s “economic miracle,” the country is falling further and further behind Western living standards. The United States’ GDP per capita was 39% greater than Israel’s in 1973; it is 61% higher today.
One startling statistic captures the paradox of startling creativity coupled with economic stagnation. In 1990, the number of U.S.-approved Israeli patents per capita was 6% below that of the G7 countries, while Israeli productivity, measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 7% behind. By 2003, the number of Israeli patents was 69% greater. Yet Israel’s productivity was now 23% less than that of the leading G7 economies.
Why has Israeli creativity not translated into standard of living gains vis-à-vis the West? Clearly the hi-tech sector has been insufficient to compensate for the lag in other sectors of the economy. That lag is reflected in ever worsening poverty. In 1979, roughly one-fourth of Israeli families would have been under the poverty line, but for welfare assistance. Over the last thirty years, that percentage has grown to one-third.
Israel has developed a vast social safety net of welfare assistance to compensate for growing family poverty and income inequalities. But the increases in welfare payments are unsustainable in the long-run. Since 1970, per capita GDP has doubled, while welfare payments have quintupled. That ratio cannot continue indefinitely. There are too many other urgent demands on the government’s purse, including defense and the investment in the infrastructure and human capital needed to maintain Israel’s ability to compete economically. At some point, Israel will simply run out of money to keep papering over the increase in impoverished families.
Accompanying the increase in poverty has been a dramatic increase in income inequality. Israel was once one of the most egalitarian countries in the world. Today it’s has the steepest income inequality in the Western world. And, as Professor Ben-David explained, that inequality is not measured only in the gap between the richest docile and the poorest; the gaps are widening between each docile and the one immediately below. Those disparities will greatly strain the Israeli social fabric.
One of the major factors underlying Israel’s declining productivity relative to other economically developed countries is its low rate of labor force participation. In 2008, the percentage of non-employed males between 25-54 was 20.4% in Israel. No other Western nation comes close to that. The comparable rates in the United States and Switzerland were 14% and 6.3%.
Lack of investment in infrastructure and human capital (i.e., education) serves as another major brake on the Israeli economy. Israelis own half the number of cars per capita as the Western average, but Israel’s road congestion is three times as high as the Western average. The educational situation is even grimmer both in terms of quantity and quality. Seventeen per cent of Israelis in the prime-working age group (25-54 years old) dropped out before completing high school versus 11% of Americans.
Worse, they do not learn much while in school. In five international exams over the last ten years, Israeli schoolchildren ranked last among 25 Western nations in all but one. (Israeli students ranked near the very top in the first such exams in 1963.) Israeli youth are simply not being prepared for modern economies in which workers can expect to change jobs many times.
Professor Ben-David points to many factors behind the educational decline. First is the low quality of teachers. Most primary and secondary school teachers are produced by teachers colleges whose entrance requirements are considerably below those for university. Second, school principals have little authority to reward good teachers or fire incompetent ones. Most important, students spend dramatically less time on the basic core subjects – reading, writing, science, math, and English – than the average in other developed nations.
Higher education is also beset with problems. Since the mid-70s, Israel’s population has more doubled, but the number of senior faculty positions at the Technion, the MIT of Israel, increased by one. At Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University, the number of senior faculty positions has dropped 14% and 21%, respectively. As a result Israel, whose survival depends primarily on brainpower, is experiencing a brain drain unparalleled by any Western country. From 2002-2004, the rate of emigration of academics doubled.
Holders of academic degrees are 2.5 times as likely to emigrate as those lacking them. The latter figure points to the long range threat to Israel. Those who can command much higher salaries abroad – academics, research scientists, those in hi-tech, doctors, in short, the leaders of Israel’s “economic miracle” – are leaving in ever greater numbers.
No doubt Professor Ben-David hopes that he and his children will live in Israel. That is why he is so passionate about dealing with the long-range trends threatening Israel’s economic viability. But, in the end, he knows that his children will have other options. If all those who can emigrate to countries with higher standards of living and no compulsory military service, do so, our children and grandchildren will be left to deal with the mess.
Somehow a thought came to my mind as to what’s the message? What is it that we can learn, perhaps even take as retribution from the One above.
Haiti, it is said, is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Looking at the map, Haiti is a one hour and 22 minute flight from Miami, Florida. Or about the commute from the suburbs to downtown Manhattan. And yet this nation has been somehow set aside.
How can it be that in such proximity to the wealthiest nation in the world there are people that are stricken with poverty? The answer to that question, was perhaps given to me this morning.
As the central message of a slideshow I saw recently says, God perhaps has stepped away in order to make room for humanity to respond. I think we can take a step further than that. Perhaps it’s not only a message of God allowing people to express their compassion. Perhaps there is a deeper lesson.
Perhaps the message is “what took you so long?” Why haven’t you, my creatures, come together to help this impoverished nation before disaster strikes? Poverty can be wiped out. It can be rid of immediately. If not for, to put it mildly, the lack of true concern on the part of all humanity, poverty, disease, and all the suffering that human beings on our tiny planet could be made history.
I end with the saying from our sages, Hillel to be specific, “If Not Now, When?”
I am a little baffled as to why political commentators have been slamming President Obama for his supposedly sluggish response to the botched Christmas Day terrorist attack.
After all, press reports stated that just minutes after the drama unfolded, Obama “left an Oahu golf course abruptly” — mid-round! – and that his “motorcade raced back to the [president’s vacation] house in a dramatic fashion” so that he could attend to the crisis. What more could you ask for from a Commander-in-Chief?
Oops! Those reports do not describe the president’s reaction to learning about what was almost the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9-11. Rather, they describe what Obama did Monday following news that the son of a member of his entourage had sustained a bump on the chin from an errant surfboard
Would that our president had reacted as swiftly to news of the near murder of 288 Americans over Detroit. Instead it took him three days to adequately respond while a concerned American public was forced to endure the spectacle of Obama’s Keystone Kops flounder and fail on every relevant point of the near disaster.
During the seven-and-a-half years of the post 9-11 Bush administration, a common refrain was that it was not a matter of if the next large scale terrorist attack on America would occur, but when. While there is a lot the American military, Homeland Security and other agencies can do to tighten security, we were told, there is only so much that can be done in a country as freedom-loving as America.
Still, Bush’s administration took seriously the charge to provide for the common defense, and no other major attacks took place on American soil. It is an accomplishment for which the much maligned former president received little of his well-earned praise.
Horrifyingly, President Obama’s response to the events of Christmas Day typifies his administration’s languid approach to the various threats to America’s security. While it may be difficult to protect this nation, it certainly comes with the job description. His lackadaisical handling of national security renders us profoundly and increasingly vulnerable to attack.
The Obama administration has banished the term “war on terror” from its vocabulary. Instead, America is battling, in Obama’s words last week, “a far-reaching network of violence and hatred” that produces, in the words of his secretary of Homeland Security, “man-caused disasters.” Caused by whom one might ask.
Such euphemisms are rooted in a stifling political correctness about the nature of the enemy America faces. Political correctness also prevents the administration and most of the media from identifying radical Islam as a cause, much less the main cause, of terrorism. No matter that the terrorists themselves seem at pains to broadcast that it is their religion that prompts them to commit their murderous deeds.
Obama has said terrorists have a “lack of empathy for the suffering and humanity of others…most often, though, [terrorism] grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.”
But we know that’s not true. The would-be Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, is the son of a rich Nigerian banker who attended a prestigious London university. Fifteen of the 9-11 hijackers were from high income classes or middle class. And so on.
It’s not about poverty. It’s about religion. As a former Taliban official has said, “The Americans are fighting so they can live and enjoy the material things in life. But we are fighting so we can die in the cause of God.”
And as former Muslim terrorist Hassan Butt wrote in The Guardian in 2007, “…what drove me and many of my peers to plot acts of extreme terror within Britain, our own homeland and abroad, was a sense that we were fighting for the creation of a revolutionary state that would eventually bring Islamic justice to the world.”
The administration’s foreign policy is animated by the idea that America can best defend itself by conducting a vast public relations campaign, with the president himself as chief spokesman. That explains the seemingly endless string of presidential speeches to foreign audiences apologizing for America and bowing to foreign demands.
Despite the endless sanctions by the U.S. and United Nations, in December it was reported that Iran is now testing a “neutron initiator,” which can detonate a nuclear warhead and has no peaceful purpose. And Iran has begun testing missiles that can reach Israel and Europe.
But the administration seems to have decided that it will not respond with force if Iran develops (if it has not already developed) a nuclear weapon. Obama’s open hand approach to Iran has been met with the iron fist of the Mullah’s regime. In a moment of candor in December, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted, “I don’t think anyone can doubt that our outreach has produced very little in terms of any kind of a positive response from the Iranians.”
A year-end Rasmussen poll found that public confidence in the conduct of the “war on terrorism” has collapsed during Obama’s first year. When Obama was inaugurated, 55% of likely voters believed that we were winning and the terrorists were losing. But by December 29th, only 36% of voters still felt the U.S. was prevailing.
That’s not surprising. A recent Rand Corporation report stated that of the more than two dozen homegrown terror plots uncovered in the U.S. since 9-11, ten surfaced in 2009. That puts “the level of activity in 2009 much higher than that of previous years,” Rand senior adviser Brian Jenkins told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in November.
The Rasmussen poll also found that following the botched Christmas Day plot, nearly 80% of respondents believed it was likely that there will be another terrorist attack in the U.S. in the next year, “a 30-point jump from the end of August when just 49% of Americans felt that way.”
Through his hollow words and listless response to terrorism, Obama in less than a year has transformed the notion of When-Not-If from a warning into an inevitability. Whether he likes it or not, keeping Americans safe from terrorist attack is not optional, and if lives are lost, he will be held responsible.
Its never too ealry to teach children to care for others. As they say, charity begins at home…
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A great video on the essence of Tzedakah
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Haifa Municipality has decided to embrace what is currently regarded as one of the hottest trends in the field of self improvement – life coaching – for the benefit of its residents. The purpose is to help families emerge from poverty. “Our role is to give people fishing rods instead of fish and to teach them to do things on their own,” explains life coach Yael Sela. “When we provide them with welfare services we invariably leave them in the needy status. Through coaching, we provide them with tools to stand on their own feet.”
The municipality first held a test pilot for the program, which included five families with a history of financial and other difficulties. The families were assigned a personal coach from the Israeli “Sdot Israel” coaching center, which held weekly meetings with them, each lasting an hour and a half. The sessions are funded by the municipality and welfare services.Yael Sela, her coach, said, “We focus on the here, now and onwards. We work under the assumption that each person has strengths and weaknesses with which they can develop, move forward and affect change.”
“The collaboration is aimed at helping families find the solutions, means and strengths to embark on a new path from within themselves,” notes Meira Kiperman, project manager with the municipal welfare department.
“The coach taught me how to handle myself financially and also how to organize my life,” says S., a 37-year-old mother of three from Haifa. “After each coaching session I felt an improvement, and I can only regret not having taken a life coach 10 years ago. My life would have been different.”
S. was the subject of domestic violence on the part of her husband and at one point escaped to a battered women’s center with her children. She later became independent, but had difficulties providing for her children on her income as a housekeeper.
“At first, I kept telling the coach that this is my destiny and that this is how it will remain. She didn’t accept this and convinced me that I could do things and change my life around. I underwent 12 coaching sessions and felt myself drawn to the things she taught me,” S. related.
“At first, I kept telling the coach that this is my destiny and that this is how it will remain. She didn’t accept this and convinced me that I could do things and change my life around. I underwent 12 coaching sessions and felt myself drawn to the things she taught me,” S. related. Yael Sela, her coach, said, “We focus on the here, now and onwards. We work under the assumption that each person has strengths and weaknesses with which they can develop, move forward and affect change.”
From the Jerusalem Post
Six percent of Israel’s needy children are forced to steal food when they are hungry and almost a quarter of the country’s children being brought up in less affluent families are sent out to work to improve their household’s finances, a report published Tuesday by the non-profit humanitarian aid agency Latet has found.
According to the organization’s annual Alternative Poverty Report 2009, which is based on data collected from more than 100 food charities countrywide and on in depth interviews with individuals and families living below the poverty line, there has been a 15 percent increase in the number of people seeking welfare assistance from non-profit organizations over the past year. The rise is mainly due to the economic recession that hit late last year, the organization reported.
“For many people the economic crisis is just starting,” commented Latet Director Eran Weintraub on Tuesday following a press conference about the report, which for the past seven years has offered a more personal approach to poverty than the statistical perspective provided by the National Insurance Institute’s annual poverty report released last month.
“We are expecting that many more people in 2010 will join the already tens of thousands of individuals trapped in the cycle of poverty,” said Weintraub, adding that non-profit organizations such as Latet are growing increasingly concerned that they will not be able to cope with the rise.
Among the findings of the report, the organization noted a growth of 10% in the number of people that lost their jobs over the past year due to the economic crisis, with 25% saying they were not optimistic about finding work in the near future.
While the situation grew more difficult for adults, the report highlighted the worsening conditions for the country’s children.
Aside from the 6% of children admitting to stealing food, 20% of needy families reported that their children had become involved in violent activities due to the tough financial situation. In addition, 34% said they were fearful their children would eventually become involved in crime or start taking drugs because of the economic hardships their families faced.
Further, an overwhelming 62% of families said they could not provide their children with suitable food staples, while 45% claimed their young were not receiving even one hot meal a day, including at school or in after-school programs.
The report also found that the situation for 44% of those currently receiving food aid had significantly worsened over the past year, with 63% reporting that they are unable to purchase medical treatment or supplies due to their financial situation.
In its questions to the general public, the study found that 80% of the population believes that the government has failed in its attempts to stamp out poverty in Israel and 40% feel that government policies actually contributed to worsening the crisis.
According to the official National Insurance Institute report, 1,651,300 Israelis lived below the poverty line in 2008. Among these figures, 783,600 were children, a slight increase from 773,900 the previous year.
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