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US hurricane victims welcome Israeli aid workers

Volunteers from Dream Doctors, ZAKA, IsraAID, Magen David Adom, Jewish Agency, United Hatzalah/Israel Rescue Coalition helping in Texas and Florida.

Israeli volunteers from ZAKA joined local relief organizations and police to help Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma. Photo: courtesy

On a house-to-house mission in the Florida Keys, search-and-rescue volunteers from Israel discovered an ailing American military veteran who’d spent four days without water, electricity or telephone reception in his home as Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc outside.

    “You are the first people to come down here and offer aid,” the grateful man told Tamar Citron, a member of the team from the Israel Rescue Coalition and United Hatzalah.

“We provided him with water, food and a lot of positivity,” Citron reported. “We notified local authorities and EMS teams and made sure that they followed up. Unfortunately, there are many people stuck on the Keys right now without access to food, water, electricity or a method of communication. Our entire team is heading down to the Keys to help rescue more of these people.”

Citron and volunteers from other Israeli humanitarian aid groups, who dropped everything to fly over and assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida, are finding their expertise is needed and appreciated. Israel is the only country to send multiple groups of volunteers in addition to material aid.

“Our first night in Texas [September 8] we went to a restaurant and the waiter asked us if we were in Houston for business or pleasure,” says Smadar Harpak, a therapeutic clown with Israel’s Dream Doctors Project.

“We explained that our business is pleasure, that we came to work with families who lost their homes. With tears in his eyes, the waiter said, ‘Nobody comes because they think we’re a rich country and don’t need help. It’s exciting to know someone cares about us.’ And we realized there is a lot to do here,” Harpak tells ISRAEL21c.

Her 20-hour journey with co-clown Penny Hanuka was arranged by Israel’s Foreign Ministry and the Israeli Consulate in Houston. They have been on past humanitarian missions to Europe, Nepal and Haiti. In Texas they’ve been working in Houston and Dallas shelters, hospitals and schools.

 Click here to read full article at ISRAEL21C

Abigail Klein Leichman | ISRAEL21c.org

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