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Israel Quick to Offer Aid To Quake Victims

Jerusalem, March 11 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly offered aid to victims of Friday’s massive earthquake in Japan and the first group of Israeli humanitarian experts was already preparing to leave for the scene.

Netanyahu’s office issued a statement, saying: “Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a message to the Japanese government, saying that the people of Israel express their deep sorrow over the tragedy in Japan, and that he will work to provide any help that will be required. The Japanese ambassador expressed his gratitude and said that he will convey the message to his government.”

Shachar Zahavi, founder and coordinator of IsraAID, The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, said in an email to The Israel Project, “IsraAID/FIRST disaster relief teams, consisting of first responders, search and rescue specialists, logisticians, emergency medical personnel and water specialists, are preparing to travel to the region within the next 24 hours.”

IsraAID, a coordinating organization for 17 Israeli and Jewish humanitarian groups, has established a Japan & Pacific Earthquake and Tsunami Emergency Fund to assist victims of this disaster. For more information please be in touch: szahavi@hotmail.comor 972.54.678.5033 or go to http://www.israaid.org.il.

The group was checking where the team could fly to a nearby country and then trying to make it to northeast Japan, where the tsunami has killed hundreds and devastated cities and towns.

“We’re in touch with local groups to check the situation in the area,” Zahavi told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “We’re trying to get to the closest airport and then get to the affected area from there.”

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder and president of The Israel Project, said the Israeli response was the latest example of how the Jewish state rallies to people in need around the world.

"At this time our hearts are with those suffering. It is important for our wallets and actions to be there as well. I am proud of Israel and Israelis for standing with those in need at this time and always," she said.

The Japanese consul in Israel, Mitoshiko Shinomya, told the Israeli news webstite Ynethe was heartened by the Israeli government's offer of assistance. "Israel officially offered its help an hour after the earthquake struck,” Shinomya said. “It is very heart-warming, but at this point we do not know exactly what the extent of the damage is, so it is difficult for us to say what can be done.”

Another Israeli aid group, ZAKA International Rescue Unit, said it would send a team oftrained volunteers from Israel to help the search and rescue efforts headed by the organization's co-directors Mati Goldstein and Dovi Maisel. A second ZAKA team based in Hong Kong was to leave for the quake area after the conclusion of the Sabbath in their region.

ZAKA’s experts have gained valuable experience assisting at natural disasters around the world, including Haiti, the tsunami in Thailand and the hurricane in New Orleans.

Israelis, who have dealt with many disasters through wars and terrorism in their own country, have become experts in emergency medicine and trauma. Israel also has considerable expertise in clean water management.

Israelis were among the first on the scene to help during the earthquake in Haiti and the Jewish tradition of reaching out to those in need dictates that they would also offer help to people in Japan and elsewhere stricken by this devastating event.

The Jewish Federations of North America is setting up an emergency relief fund to help those in affected areas, a spokesman said, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee opened a mailbox Friday for donations to be used for Japan/Pacific disaster relief. Donations can be made at https://jdc.org/donation/donate.aspx.

"JDC is now conducting an up-to-the-minute assessment of the situation in Japan and the Pacific Rim and has activated its network of partners to determine critical, immediate needs of the hardest-hit areas," the organization said in a statement.

For more information, contact Alan Elsner: TIP Communications Director 202-857-6671 or email to alane@theisraelproject.org

Date: 3/15/2011 12:00:00 AM

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