Globally, the news cycle during the production period for the May 11 issue of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin was dominated by the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25. As I write, on May 1, the confirmed death toll from this heartbreaking disaster has topped 6,300 and the Nepalese government is estimating it could rise to 10,000 or more.
As we have seen with numerous other natural disasters in recent years, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011, and the typhoon in the Philippines in 2013, Israel was one of the quickest countries to respond to the earthquake, and the work of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli NGOs like IsraAid has been remarkably effective.
Nepal has been a popular tourist destination for Israelis – particularly for young Israelis after they’ve completed their military service – and Israel moved quickly to evacuate its citizens from the earthquake zone. Within three days, more than 300 Israelis had been airlifted from the earthquake zone and brought home, while many major countries, including Canada, were still strategizing on how to evacuate their citizens. As I write, only one Israeli remains unaccounted for in the earthquake zone.
Fascinatingly, among the Israelis brought home were 25 newborn babies born to Israelis using Nepalese surrogate mothers. That Nepal has become a major centre for Israelis in need of surrogacy services came to light because of this disaster.
The IDF were among the largest military delegations to go to Nepal in the wake of the earthquake. In addition to conducting search-and-rescue missions, the IDF quickly set up field hospitals, providing urgently needed operating rooms, intensive-care units, neonatal care, beds and essential medical staff. Magen David Adom also sent doctors and paramedics to help treat the many thousands of seriously injured.
In the days following the earthquake we carried numerous stories about the disaster on the Bulletin website – www.ottawajewishbulletin.com – including the poignant account of how IsraAid led in the rescue of a woman discovered buried in the rubble and still alive after five days.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) was among the organizations that responded quickly to humanitarian needs after the earthquake, providing neonatal incubators for the IDF field hospital, and funds for Magen David Adom efforts, to UNICEF for emergency supplies (including drinkable water) for children, and to Israeli NGO Tevel B’tzedek, which is establishing emergency shelters for some of the thousands left homeless by the earthquake.
The effects of the humanitarian disaster in Nepal will be felt for years to come, and the work of the JDC after such disasters typically goes on for years providing relief and assistance in the short term and then helping to restore jobs, implement programs to reduce the risk from future disasters, rebuild schools and provide post-trauma care.
Jewish Federations of North America and its constituent federations moved quickly to establish funds to support JDC efforts in Nepal. One hundred per cent of the funds donated to the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Nepal relief fund – www.tinyurl.com/JFO-Nepal – will be directed to JDC humanitarian efforts in the earthquake zone.
Donations to the Federation fund made until May 25 also qualify for matching funds – dollar-for-dollar – from the federal government.