Storm-battered nation grateful for medical and rescue work; Jewish fundraising reaches $1 million.
After landing at the Phillipines' Cebu-Mactan Airport in an El Al plane, an Israeli team of some 200 medical and rescue personnel immediately set up an emergency hospital and began surveying the damage from Typhoon Haiyan from the air.
"We saw the destruction the typhoon brought, and Israel is ready to help," said Israel's ambassador to the Phillipines,Moshe Bar on in a statement posted on Facebook. "In past cases – where areas were struck by typhoons, we were there and assisted in any way we can. The Philippines and the Filipino people are close friends with Israel and the Jewish people. At this moment, our urgent task is to extend help to the Philippine government."
The Israeli government began publicizing the work of its team via social media using the hashtag #IsraelinPhillipines.
The Phillipines' ambassador to Israel is expressing gratitude for the Jewish state's contributions to the recovery from Typhoon Hiyan.
“I can’t describe the feeling right now... that my host country cares about our stricken people,” Generoso D.G. Calonge told The Jerusalem Post.
I hope the people of Israel will maintain their attitude of people who are stricken with this crisis and who are on the losing end of natural disasters.”
At the same time, Hadassah, the largest Jewish organization in America, pledged to raise awareness about the storm's impact and steer funds to the Jewish Disaster Relief Coalition.
"We at Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, pledge alongside Hadassah Medical Organization to do all we can to help those in need — both for those who have found themselves in the direct path of the storm and for those who have lost and are searching for loved ones in the Philippines" said National President Marcie Natan.
With the toll of destruction in the Phillipines rising, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and other organizations are coordinating a relief effort for the thousands whose lives were ruined by Haiyan over the weekend.
As of Friday morning JDC has collected an estimated $600,000 in relief funds while the American Jewish World Service raised $400,000, the organizations said.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Filipino people suffering from this terrible storm’s unimaginable destruction," said Cheryl Fishbein, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America's Emergency Committee.
Representatives of the JDC are also gearing up to assess the situation firsthand.
"Or team of disaster relief and development experts [will] assess damage, consult with local partners and the Jewish community, and see where our help will be most impactful, a JDC spokesman, Michel Geller, told The Jewish Week.
On Sunday, a delegation of volunteers from the Towards the Pacific coalition of eight Israeli rescue organizations and humanitarian NGOs headed by Rescuers Without Borders left for the Philippines, with more delegations scheduled to follow.
The nonprofit group IsraAid also sent a team of medical professionals and trauma and relief specialists are scheduled to arrive in the Philippines Monday, working primarily in Tacloban City in Leyte. A larger team is expected to land by the end of the week, according to IsraAid.
Typhoon Haiyan, possibly the most severe storm in recorded history, battered the Phillipines with winds of up to 195 mph, leaving a trail of destruction in multiple provinces, forcing hundreds of thousands to evacuate and making travel by air and land to hard-hit provinces difficult. Around 10,000 people are feared dead, and at least half a million people have been left homeless.
“We immediately activated our network of global partners and will leverage our previous experience in the region to provide immediate, strategic relief to survivors in their time of need,” said Alan H. Gill, JDC’s chief executive officer.
“These efforts are especially poignant for us given the Philippines’s life-saving actions during the Second World War when the country offered safe haven to more than 1,000 Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi onslaught. It is our privilege today to honor that historic debt.”
As damage reports and casualty rates continue to grow, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos remain inaccessible, without power and shelter in the wake of Haiyan, called Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, according to JDC.
B'nai B'rith announced Monday afternoon that it had opened its existing disaster relief fund to help victims of Haiyan.
"It’s hard to even imagine the widespread devastation they’re experiencing in the Philippines," B'nai B’rith President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Each disaster has its own unique challenges and this one will truly be a giant undertaking. As one of the funders of IsraAID, we have made an allocation to support their emergency response team in addressing immediate needs. In addition, we will be evaluating longer term rebuilding efforts."
The American Jewish World Service also launched a relief fund.
AJWS President Ruth Messinger told The Jewish Week Tuesday that the group was working to get aid in place as soon as possible. "We have staff who have lots of connections in the area and they have lined up about five or six groups that contract with other groups to do ongoing work," she said.
New York's UJA Federation began collecting funds on its site Monday and said 100 percent of proceeds will be forwarded to JDC, which is a beneficiary agency.
The JDC already has a history operating in the Philippines after having assisted with post-typhoon cholera through an Israeli partner in 2009 and working to enhance emerging Jewish community life through the inclusion of the Filipino Jewish community members in pan-Asian Jewish events.
Checks, sent by mail, may be sent to JDC Typhoon Haiyan Relief, P.O. Box 4124. New York, NY 10163.
To donate to the American Jewish World Service fund, make checks payable to: American Jewish World Service, 45 West 36th Street, 11th floor New York, NY 10018-7904, or call ( 212) 792-2900.
JTA contributed to this report.
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