When Shachar Zahavi, founder of the humanitarian organization IsraAid, first heard about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, he knew that IsraAid could help. “We immediately called our contacts in the UN, Israeli government and international aid agencies and began evaluating what the needs on the ground were.”
While IsraAid mobilized a volunteer team consisting of emergency medicine, search and rescue and water purification experts, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the world’s largest financial supporter of IsraAid, created the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund to ensure a successful IsraAid mission. To date, over $140,000 has been raised.
“The Toronto Jewish community responded immediately to the enormous needs of Japan,” says Zahavi. “As a result of the community’s generosity, we dispatched our team to Japan and were one of the first emergency response units on the ground.”
The team began working with local organizations, distributing relief items and planning a large scale aid operation for the affected communities. But the mission was temporarily interrupted when the government of Israel ordered all Israelis to leave the country because of high radiation levels.
However, within hours of being back in Israel, the team reconvened and established a 14-member delegation lead by Dr. Gady Sadovsky, a Reserve Colonel of the Home Front Command and current Head of Emergency Preparedness at Assaf Harofeh Hospital in Ashdod.
Sadovsky and his team arrived in Tokyo soon after receiving safety clearance from the Israeli government.
“The scale of this disaster is still incomprehensible,” said Sadovsky after visiting displacement centres in Tokyo. “We are continuously humbled by the Japanese medical professionals, logisticians, relief workers and ordinary citizens who have demonstrated such bravery in the face of tragedy. We are here to lend a hand, share our experience and learn from theirs.”
“Thousands of households have been living without fuel and electricity since March 14, and about 500,000 people are living in shelters,” added Zahavi. “The shortage of fuel presents us with unique logistical issues, making it very challenging to reach the affected areas. The situation for these people is very urgent.”
Israel’s Ambassador to Japan, Nisim Ben Shitrit, says IsraAid’s Japan mission demonstrates the commitment of Israeli society to nations in need. “It is truly appreciated in Japan, both by the local community and the government.”
To contribute to the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, please call 416.631.5705 or visit www.ujadonations.com/japan.