Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Katrina


This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 6 September 2005.

Sometimes when you have too many feelings in your heart, you can't find the words to express them. The days pass, filled with news coverage, stories shared in on-line groups and chat rooms, and commentary provided by experts and amateurs alike. Soon it seems there is simply nothing left to be said, so why say anything at all?

I have come to realize why it is important to speak up, even if it seems your thoughts and feelings have already been expressed by others. If you say nothing, sometimes people assume it is because you feel nothing.

The news of Hurricane Katrina's devastation, and the tumultuous aftermath, shocked and saddened us here in Israel. Israel was one of the first countries to offer assistance to the U.S. Teams of search and rescue volunteers and various materials are already in place or on the way. IsraAID has put together a team of medical personnel, psychologists and highly trained search and rescue workers. Approximately 80 tons of supplies including tents and generators, among other things, is on the way. The way many Israelis see it, America has been our friend for so long, we want to be able to do whatever we can for her in this time of need.

But many Israelis are puzzled by the problems and delays that initially plagued the rescue operations. Here we are used to lightening-quick military and rescue operations. Indeed, if we did not have them, we might not exist at all today. It is difficult for many Israelis to grasp the enormity of America, in terms of both her physical size and her bureaucracies, and to understand why some things take longer there. I also think it is hard for Israelis to comprehend the magnitude of the disaster and the massive logistical problems involved in giving aid and shelter to the survivors of Katrina. For example, the estimate quoted on the news here of the cost of damages caused by Katrina is equal to nearly twice Israel's entire annual budget.

In the last few days I have read many stories by volunteers in Texas and elsewhere who have put their lives on hold in order to pitch in and help out. I have read dozens of e-mails by Americans who do not live near the main refugee centers but who still want to help in whatever way they can. By now I imagine most people have heard about the man who chartered an airplane to bring in supplies, and to take some 80 people to a shelter in San Diego. But even people without those kinds of resources are doing what they can. People out there are buying flip flops, T shirts and hygenic supplies and sending them to people they only know on-line, to be distributed in Houston and elsewhere. Some folks are thinking ahead to the holidays, making Christmas stockings and gifts for all those newly-homeless children.

Grass-roots aid efforts are also underway here in Israel. Some of those who are trying to help are former residents of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Others are people who may never have visited the American South, but want to do what they can. Information on how to donate money to a special fund established by Magen David Adom (Israel's version of the Red Cross) appeared on the television news and in the papers, and Israelis have been responding.

As for me, after making a financial donation I started searching for other ways I could help. I have signed up for several needlework projects, through some of the on-line groups I know. Finding the right words these days is difficult for me, so I am going to let the work of my hands speak for me. Though my words are few, there is a wealth of emotion in every stitch.

(c) Amy Samin

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