(JTA) – Academy Award winner and activist Sean Penn, in Israel for the first time, credited the Israeli international relief organization IsraAID for the success of his humanitarian efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
Penn was the keynote speaker Monday at an IsraAID conference in Tel Aviv.
“The indirect impact of IsraAID is that everything that JP/HRO [Penn’s Haiti relief effort] has accomplished would not have existed without the inspiration and support that they provided,” he said at the conference, according to Israel21C.
IsraAID founding director Shachar Zahavi told Israel21c that the group met Penn in Haiti in 2010, shortly after the Caribbean country was devastated by a major earthquake that killed more than 230,000.
Penn’s group and IsraAID, which is still working in Haiti, teamed up for several years to establish a school and offer other services in a Port-au-Prince refugee camp.
Penn, who also met with former Israeli president Shimon Peres and leaders of several Israeli start-ups working on international humanitarian aid, was expected to tour the Jewish state for two days after the conference. Peres reportedly told Penn, “I saw the ‘Mystic River’ and ‘Milk,’ but the real Oscars go to you for what you have done in Haiti.”
Penn’s father is Jewish, but the Hollywood star does not identify as Jewish.
In 2014, Penn was one of several honorees at a gala event of This World: The Values Network, a nonprofit created by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. At the Manhattan event, Penn was lauded for helping to free Jacob Ostreicher, an Orthodox Jewish businessman, from a Bolivian prison in 2013.
Also at the event, Penn revealed some of his political views on Israel, referring to the West Bank as “undeclared territories” and noting that some Palestinians are unjustly imprisoned there.