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Thursday 26 July 2007

Providing Dignity and Compassion: from Darfur to Sderot

Providing Dignity and Compassion: from Darfur to Sderot
By Lee Hiromoto, IRAC intern
The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) has recently provided
humanitarian assistance to two dramatically different - yet in some
ways, similar - populations: residents of Sderot and refugees fleeing
the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Over a period of two weeks in May, several rockets a day were fired on
the beleaguered working class city of Sderot, resulting in several
deaths and a constant atmosphere of fear. IRAC has focused its
assistance for Sderot's special-needs residents - both physical and mental.
Recently, IRAC sponsored a weeklong stay in Mishkenot Ruth Daniel, the
guest house and culture center of the Reform Movement in Tel Aviv-Jaffa,
to enable Sderot's most vulnerable individuals and their loved ones some
time away from the anxiety that has permeated the town.
Over 100 people received free room, board, transport, and activities,
including a special trip to the nearby "Safari".
A mother of two children with physical and mental disabilities,
expressed thanks for allowing her a chance to spend some "relaxed time"
with her children outside Sderot - which she called "a besieged city".
IRAC also facilitated the recruitment and transportation of 30
volunteers from Jerusalem's Reform community, many of them rabbinical
students at Hebrew Union College, to travel south and spend time with
elderly residents. These residents receive individual visits, small
gifts, and-most importantly- the reassurance of knowing that someone
cares about them.
Parallel to its efforts to assist residents of Sderot, IRAC is helping
the hundreds of refugees from Sudan's Darfur region, embroiled in
ethno-tribal fighting which has taken the lives of over 400,000 souls
and displaced over 2 million innocent bystanders to the conflict.
The refugees made the dangerous trek across the scorching Sinai desert
with nothing but the clothes on their backs in hope of finding safe
harbor in Israel. Instead, they are unfortunately often imprisoned as
citizens of an enemy state. They currently remain in a state of legal
and diplomatic limbo.
IRAC send teams of Arabic-speaking volunteers to visit the refugees in
prison and volunteers bring gifts of the most basic necessities - such
as shoes, clothing, and baby products. No less important, the volunteers
show the refugees that there are Israelis sensitive to their dire situation.
IRAC also works with Israel's Reform community to raise awareness of the
refugees' plight. These efforts have led many Reform rabbis to raise the
issue in their weekly sermons, and over $10,000 have been raised to
assist these desperate victims.
Speaking about IRAC's work, Rachel Canar, IRAC Director of Development,
draws a parallel between the two populations: "No one should be forced
to leave their home in the face of senseless violence, and when that
does happen, we as Jews have an obligation to help them."


At 27 July 2007 at 05:41 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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