Keshet Israel Relief Fund
I'm sure that you have been following the tragic news about the terrible fire in the Carmel Mountain Range between Haifa and Zichron Ya'akov. Since Thursday afternoon almost 5,000 acres of some of Israel's most beautiful forest land has gone up in flames and over 15,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. The forest will grow back and homes can be rebuilt, but, tragically, a bus carrying over 40 prison guards and policemen on their way to evacuate a small prison in the area was engulfed in the flames and 42 people were killed, including a number of policemen who had tried to assist them and a 16 year old boy who had joined one of the volunteer teams. Their lives cannot be restored and today all of Israel is grieving for the needless loss of so much life and the destruction of one of the most beautiful areas of Eretz Yisrael. Ironically, as we light the Hanukah candles tonight, we will not only be thinking about the miracle of light that has become the Hanukah story but also about fire's destructive power.
For us at Keshet the tragedy in Carmel strikes particularly close to home. For the last six years Keshet has been organizing an annual walk-a-thon for Melabev, a wonderful Israeli organization devoted to the research and treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Every year a group of volunteers from Israel and abroad raises money for Melabev and in return Keshet organizes a three-day hiking program, each year in a different part of Israel. Just last week we were in the Carmel National Park with 50 intrepid hikers in the area extending from Haifa University to Kibbutz Beit Oren, precisely the area in which the fire is currently raging.
In situations like these, it is natural for people to look for ways to be of assistance. Since the fire broke out, there has been an outpouring of offers from Israelis to host evacuees and to help in whatever way possible. We contacted the hotel on Moshav Nir Etzion to see if they needed help. Alon, the hotel manager, was telling me that the police had ordered the immediate evacuation of both the hotel and the moshav and that he had to find a bus to transport 40 guests to safety. Through Geoff Winston, Keshet's Family program coordinator and guide, who lives nearby in Zichron Ya'akov, we contacted Eli, the owner of a local bus company and 5 minutes later a bus was on its way to Nir Etzion to assist in the evacuation.
This culture of "how can I help" has become a major factor in Israeli life in recent years and we know that many of Keshet's friends are also eager to lend assistance. Very few of us own fire-engines that we can drive into the area, but since last night thousands of Israelis have volunteered to house evacuees from the fire. Others rushed supplies of food and beverages to the forest fighters. Magen David Adom, the Israeli ambulance service, was of course busy ferrying wounded firemen, policemen and volunteers to regional hospitals, and Zaka, the ultra-orthodox group called upon for the job of tending to the dead, was unfortunately called into action. Naturally, the JNF will be at the forefront of the efforts to reforest the Carmel and to prevent future catastrophes of this nature. And finally, Lev Echad (One Heart), which recruited thousands of young volunteers during the war in Lebanon and the fighting in Gaza, was again mobilized by the Home Front Command to open its centers around the country, one of which my son, Yuval, is working at during his leave from the army and Ari Ehrlich, volunteer firefighter and son of our Educational Director Danny Ehrlich spent his Shabbat fighting copy cat fires in the Jerusalem area.
I am attaching some of the pictures I took of the Carmel area during the Melabev Walk-a-thon last week. It's hard to believe that it will be years before it will be restored to its previous beauty.
As always, our lives are a mixture of tragedy and celebration and our challenge is to go from "yagon to simcha", from mourning to happiness.
With best wishes for a Shavua Tov and Hanukah Sameach,
WHAT IS THE KESHET ISRAEL RELIEF PROJECT (KIRF) ?During the summer of 2006, Israel was at war in the north and near the Gaza Strip. Approximately 2000 rockets and mortars were launched at Israeli cities, towns, villages, kibbutzim and moshavim. The shelling was geared to kill and terrorize our civilian population- Jews and Arabs alike--and over a million Israelis lived in bomb shelters or as refugees in other parts of the country.
Keshet was created to provide inspirational educational programs for our clients, most of whom live in the U.S. or Great Britain. To do so, we have created a superb logistics department that is capable of working simultaneously all over the country. In addition, over the years we have amassed a great deal of experience with the Israeli social welfare system. Given the emergency situation, we put our staff to work on assisting the residents of the Galilee in their time of trial. During the war, we "unleashed" our regular staff to concentrate on a needs assessment and allocate supplies and funds to those in need.
Since the outbreak of the war, we received support from over 300 individuals and institutions and succeeded in raising over $150,000 in the course of less than two months. Through our partnership with Operation Embrace, we were able to provide a non-profit outlet for donors to immediately contribute to our grassroots relief project.
Our relief efforts continue even after the war's end. We are involved with numerous post-war projects, as well as aiding the people of Sderot. In addition, Keshet has established its own non-profit, Informed Choice for Israel.
Donations can be sent to:Attn. Mark Schulman
244 North Avenue
New Rochelle, NY 10801
Some of the Projects that Have Received KIRF Funds:
- Shipments of equipment and other materials such as fans, toys, diapers, hot plates, cleaning supplies, art supplies and food required in Acco, Zefat and Kiryat Shemonah.
- Alternative housing for residents of Zefat whom weput up in hotels in Netanya and for whom we provided a staff to operateactivities for the children.
We housed approximately 150 residents ofZefat in Netanya for over a week, as well as individual families whowere housed in Jerusalem.
- Direct support for the Social Services department in Zefat including the purchase of a computer and assistance in launching a post-trauma
- "Fun Days" for hundreds of Zefat residents that included transportation and admission fees to a water park near Tel Aviv.
Direct support for the fire fighters of Kiryat Shemona.
- Personal items requested by combat soldiers (both men and women) serving in Lebanon or along the border.
- Economic support for individual families forced to leave their homes and work to live as refugees in the center of the country.
- Support for Operation Embrace projects including psychological support centers and hospital based programs.
- Workshops provided for soldiers returning from combat including meetings with educators and civilians whose homes had been damaged by Hizboulla missiles and moderated discussions for commanders and soldiers on dealing with combat experience.
Follow the below link to a video describing this project at :