Thoughts on how to help Lebanon & Israel rebuild

Thoughts on how to help Lebanon & Israel rebuild

Arieh Lebowitz here. As the fighting between Hezbullah and Israel began a few weeks back, mainstream Jewish groups, from a number of the alphabet soup of Jewish organizations to local Jewish community federations, began special campaigns to raise funds for Israel, which was being hit in the north by Hezbullah rockets being shot somewhat indiscriminately from Lebanon. A few weeks back, I attended a meeting of liberal / progressive American Jews where someone said that it would be a good thing if American Jews assisted in the rehabilitation of some of the damage wrought by Israel in Lebanon as part of its attempt to weaken Hezbullah forces in that country. The idea was discussed, but not acted upon at that time.

Matching Grant of a sort for Lebanon and Israel
An aquaintance who operates another weblog, The Head Heeb, thinking it through, decided to act on his own. On August 16th, I read this item:

It’s time, I think, to put my money where my mouth is.
The next task in the Middle East is to rebuild what has been destroyed and to heal what can’t be rebuilt: to restore the houses and the roads, to comfort and provide for the bereaved families. Rebuilding northern Israel is an urgent priority, reconstructing southern Lebanon much more so. Lebanon sustained more damage than Israel – environmental as well as structural – and it has fewer resources to rebuild. Lebanon, has also been under a blockade for the past month and is running short on humanitarian supplies in addition to its longer-term needs.
Some, Shimon Peres included, have proposed a massive international effort to rebuild Lebanon – a Marshall Plan of sorts. It’s important, for both political and moral reasons, that this happen and that Israel take part in it. Such a program would be both a way to ensure that the south is rebuilt by someone other than Hizbullah, and a chance to make good on the promise that Israel is not at war with the Lebanese people. But aid programs, especially major ones, always take time to plan and implement, and there’s a great deal that can’t wait for the international community to get its act together.

For this reason, I will match up to US $1250 in reader donations for reconstruction of southern Lebanon and up to US $750 to rebuild northern Israel. I strongly encourage Israeli and Jewish readers to donate to Lebanese charities and vice versa, but that isn’t mandatory; I will match all donations to non-extremist-controlled charities up to the stated sum. For those who may not be sure where to contribute, this portal, which links to charities helping both countries, may provide a starting point.
I also make another pledge: five days. I’ve done disaster relief before, when my reserve unit was called up for the 1998 ice storm, and I’m willing to do it again. If someone can help out with the immigration formalities and tell me what to do in a language I understand, I’ll go spend five days on the ground helping to dig out. This isn’t something I can do right away – it will probably be early next year before I can put aside my other commitments and plans – but I’m unfortunately certain that there will still be work to do by then. In the meantime, I’ve made the promise here on the record.

Let me add that the comments posted in response to this statement are worth reading, to give a sense of what people are thinking.

August 28: Concert for Northern Israel and Lebanon
Then I learned that – from all sources an article in Arutz Sheva — that “A group of young people from Jerusalem and the Judean Hills have organized a concert to provide aid to residents of both northern Israel and southern Lebanon. They hope to beat Hizbullah to it.”

Jewish Students Raise Funds to Aid Israelis and Lebanese
by Ezra Halevi / August 20, 2006 – 26 Av, 5766
A group of young people from Jerusalem and the Judean Hills have organized a concert to provide aid to residents of both northern Israel and southern Lebanon. They hope to beat Hizbullah to it.
Shimshon Siegel, a rabbinic student at the Bat Ayin Yeshiva in Gush Etzion; Amy Kaplan, a student at Simchat Shlomo, a yeshiva in Jerusalem’s Nachlaot neighborhood adhering to the tradition of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach; and Dan Sieradski, an increasingly observant left-wing anarchist who also studies at Simchat Shlomo and directs the non-profit Jewish organization Matzat, have embarked on an effort to raise money to support war victims on both sides of the border. The three emphasize the need to “have compassion for all civilians who have suffered, as well as the need to circumvent Hizbullah’s leadership in reconstruction efforts.”
“Even though we each have different opinions on the war and the Middle East, we are joined together in the conviction that concern for human beings should transcend politics,” said Dan Sieradski, known for his left-wing politics and blogs.
Sieradski, though driven by concern for the suffering of those on both sides of the border, believes providing relief to Lebanese civilians is critical. “With Hizbullah’s dominance of relief efforts in Lebanon, we will not stand idly by while the Lebanese become further indebted to Hizbullah,” Sieradski said.
The concert, called Acharei HaMilchama (After the War), will feature both Jewish and Arab musicians, religious and secular, and will take place Monday, August 28th at Jerusalem’s Yellow Submarine (13 HaRechavim street). The concert will begin at 8 PM and last until 1 AM, featuring Eden Mi’Kedem, Sagol 59, Samech “SAZ” Zacuth and others.
Funds raised by the concert will be split between Lebanese and Israeli aid efforts. Table-to-Table’s Northern Relief Campaign is providing displaced Israeli families with needed supplies such as food, clothes, diapers, toys, and other essential goods. They are working with the Welfare Department to determine the most urgent needs of communities in the north, including rebuilding wrecked homes, volunteer help for farmers, restoring businesses, and sending school supplies for the upcoming academic year.

For more information about the concert, email

And most recently, I learned of a thoughtful article by a third aquaintance [Dan Sieradski being the second one, one of the folks involved in organizing the concert, mentioned above] that appeared on Ynet News: A new solidarity needed amid ceasefire

Before the bombs begin to fly again, American Jews, Arabs and Muslims, should use the current ceasefire to consider how our communities can provide a more constructive response to the latest, and future, Middle East crisis [sic].
Soon after the last fighting began organizations representing each community quickly mobilized to stand in solidarity and support of Israeli or Lebanese victims, and the actions of their respective governments.
It is, of course, only natural for each community to be worried first and foremost about friends and relatives caught in the line of fire, and the many humanitarian relief efforts launched in the war’s wake will surely help innocent victims on each side of this conflict begin to rebuild their lives.
At the same time, with sectarian differences tearing countries apart the all too tribal nature of these solidarity campaigns — and the often sweeping, empty rhetoric that accompanies them — comes at the expense of recognizing our neighbor’s pain, and falls far short of what we could offer our troubled brethren philanthropically, symbolically and politically if we sought common ground and responded together….
Read it all here.

Again, the comments posted in reponse to this opinion piece are worth reading, to give a sense of what at least some people are thinking.

By | 2006-08-23T11:21:00-04:00 August 23rd, 2006|Blog|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Anonymous September 10, 2006 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    I am glad to find a kindred spirit in feeling the need for Jews to show compassion and support for the victims in Lebanon. Only by transcending anger and moving toward repairing the damage–justified or not–that the Lebanese people have suffered can we have any hope of overcoming the hatred these conflicts engender on both side. Although of course there is suffering in both Israel and Lebanon, I think it is especially important that Jews make concrete efforts to help Lebanese victims, not only for moral reasons, but also so they have places other than Hezbollah to turn to.
    I would like to take advantage of your matching challenge; tell me how to make a contribution you will match.

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