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Israeli Flying Aid – Beyond the Call of Duty!

In honor of International Woman’s Day we bring you the story of one incredible Israeli woman, who is helping to save thousands of lives and restore dignity to many more worldwide.

In 2008, Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar (formerly Burma) killing over twenty thousand and effecting close to 1.5 million people.

Gal Lousky founder of Israeli Flying Aid, an Israeli humanitarian aid organization, whose mission is bringing vital supplies and aid to people in far flung disaster areas, watched events closely on television.

Initial reports indicated that the military regime of Myanmar were denying international aid to its people, so Gal and her team, consisting of Efraim Laor, one of Israel’s leading aid experts made a decision. In spite of the ban, that they would arrange a mission to bring vital supplies to the people of Myanmar.

Ironically, an Al-Jazeera film crew caught up with Gal’s team in Myanmar and followed them as they headed off deep into the ‘Waddy Delta.’

The footage, begins as the Israelis secretly load aid packages in a truck, after convincing a local driver, who risked imprisonment, to escort them to affected areas. The driver eventually agrees and the journey is an anxious one. At one point passing through a military check-point with everyone in the truck hides in the back.

They arrive at a village where hundreds of starving people surround their truck, clearly the first aid group to arrive. To control the desperate crowd, the Israelis make them sit down and then proceed to hand out the much needed food.

At the end, after some missed out, Gal tells the Al-Jazeera reporter, “I can’t understand why the country is not helping. They starving its people. It’s like genocide.”

Unlike other aid organizations, the IFA targets people in remote locations around the globe that were either intentionally or unintentionally overlooked by most government or international aid organizations, to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to people affected by either natural disaster or regional conflict.

The IFA does not discriminate between disaster victims, based on their race, religion, the hostility of their governments toward Israel, and not even in the face of anti-Semitism. “My grandmother once told me that if you go with goodness, no one will harm you,” she says. “If you plant mangoes, you won’t get lemons.

“I am very proud of my country, and if I can come with its flag, I will,” says Lusky, who explains that the organization’s insignia – a Star of David with wings – was designed to show pride in being Israeli. “But I come first and foremost as a person, second as a representative of my country, and only last as a Jew.

“Times of crises are not times for religion or politics,” she says. “I am led by the belief that everyone – no matter who they are – deserves to get help when they need it most.”

Lusky comes by this belief honestly. She takes her first example from her home, Kibbutz Hukuk, next to the Kinneret. “On a kibbutz, everyone takes care of everyone,” she says.

The lesson really hit home for Lusky when her elder brother was wounded while on a tour of duty in Lebanon in 1992. “When my brother was wounded, I was in the hospital for weeks, praying for him to get better. More than anything, I wanted someone to help my brother in his time of need. It was then that I promised myself I would dedicate my life to helping people in their time of need.”

A year and a half later, her brother returned, healthy, to his post in Lebanon. But Lusky’s life would be forever changed.

 

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Story of Claire Lomus

Claire Lomas was a professional event horse rider, in England, until a freak accident in 2007, paralyzed her from the chest down. For five years she wasn’t able to walk, wasn’t able to feel her legs and spend most of her time in a wheelchair.

That all changed in January 2012, when she started walking again, thanks to an Israeli-made bionic suit called ReWalk, “a commercial bionic walking assistance system that uses powered leg attachments to enable paraplegics to stand upright, walk and climb stairs.

The system is powered by a backpack battery, and is controlled by a simple wrist-mounted remote which detects and enhances the user’s movements.”

Designed by Amit Goffer, in Yokneam, Israel, the ReWalk is marketed by ReWalk Robotics (originally Argo Medical Technologies.)

Each time she steps forward, her suit hisses similar to a sound from Robocop. The ReWalk and two canes support her, and the suit senses when she wants to walk and shifts her weight for her. But it’s not easy. Each day, when she started, she could take only 30 steps. Every moment was a chore, and because she couldn’t feel when she was standing, she always feared falling over.

But that didn’t stop her. In April 2012, Lomas set out to participate in the 32nd Virgin London Marathon, a fete which required her completing the 26.2 miles or 42km track in 55,000 steps.

She started, alongside 35,000 runners and after 17 days, in the shadow of Buckingham Palace, she finished — to the screams of thousands of fans who came out to support her.

“It’s a moment I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life,” she said in a nationally televised, live interview with the BBC after she crossed. “The support here has been incredible – I didn’t expect it here like this. I couldn’t believe it when I turned up this morning in the taxi to start, and I thought it was just a busy day in London. Someone told me they’re all there for me. I was like, no!”

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In the FACE of terror!

Following the tragic death of Ezra Schwartz, an American student studying in Israel, in a terror attack, his friends created this campaign to send a strong message in the FACE OF TERROR: read what they had to say:

“Ezra Schwartz was gunned down by terrorists after performing a mitzvah in Gush Eztion. He was more than just a friend to most who knew him. He was a brother, someone who you knew you can count on and cared about you. Everyone loved him, everyone considered Ezra their best friend. That\’s who Ezra was. The ability to make so many people feel cared about is really amazing, you would think there were 10 Ezras going around, how can one person have touched so many people? He was always the life of the party, people would just be drawn towards him and the smile that never left his face. Ezra didn\’t reach out to every person to make sure they were happy. He didn\’t have to. Just being around him, it was impossible not to smile, and Ezra knew that. He used it as a way to bring others close to him, to his happiness, to his love of life. Ezra was murdered by terrorists, but terrorism will not prevail!”

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Yoel Sharon- “Believe and you can achieve!”

Yoel Sharon was paralyzed in his lower body after an Egyptian tank hit his APC, during the Yom Kippur War, an attack which killed 19 Israeli soldiers and left three wounded. In spite of the severe physical limitations, Yoel was determined to continue the course of life he took before the war and fulfill his dreams.

He went on to complete his film studies at Tel-Aviv University and started what would become a very successful career in the film industry with offices in Hollywood and Tel-Aviv. He also got married, had two daughters and lived a very social existence. But something was missing.

When Yoel was offered to produce a film about scuba diving around Sharm-El-Sheik, featuring ex-commando veterans and the country’s top instructors, Yoel listed one of his conditions that “Only if I can dive with you during the shoot it’s a deal. If not, I am not interested.” They agreed and he, against the wishes of his rehabilitation doctor, who told him his “nuts” and risking his life, became the first paralyzed person to learn to dive. Yoel describes the shoot as “the most exciting three weeks of his life. “I had simply discovered the underwater world, and as a paraplegic, I discovered the feeling of hovering, weightlessness, this incredible pleasure.” This is when the seeds of his new life mission were sown.

When the first automated 4.4 Jeeps arrived in Israel, Yoel bought one and organized trips for disabled and abled IDF veterans to enjoy nature and camaraderie. Then a good friend of Yoel’s showed him a device from America that allowed paralyzed people to ski, he was convinced and together with a one legged ski instructor organized Israel’s first snow-skiing course for the disabled, in Austria. “Suddenly, I found, the ultimate thing – being in nature as much as one could be, at a sports site with everyone else, reaching enormous speeds, passing skiers on your left and right. Truly an amazing experience.”

They pitched the idea to the disabled IDF veterans association, expecting them to jump on board, but when met with skepticism, they realized that they needed to take responsibility and not be told how to “rehabilitate” and live their lives.

Yoel and his friends went on to found a non-profit organization, The Snow Skiing Foundation for the Disabled. They soon realized that it was too limited for the scope of operation. They wanted to include all outdoor sports. In 1994 Etgarim or Challenges was formed as an official Israeli nonprofit organization

Yoel claims that Etgarim was established long before the snow-skiing trip to Austria, or the cycling trip to Eilat, or the adventures of diving in the Red Sea, and even long before my injury in the city of Suez during the Yom Kippur War.

Etgarim was actually born during World War II. “I am a second generation to the Holocaust, a second generation to “surviving parents,” says Yoel. “My mother is a Holocaust survivor from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. My father is a survivor of the work camps in Russia — an amazing story of eight years in a forced-labor camp near the North Pole, with an escape story that is even more amazing. I think that when you are born to parents like these, even if they don’t talk to you about their past, you turn out to be a “survivor” in your genes. I think that already at Bergen-Belsen or at the work camp by the North Pole, the first seeds of Etgarim were sown.”

Today Etgarim, empowers the special needs population in Israel to get involved in outdoor and extreme sports, allowing them to meet their potential, extend their abilities in all areas of life and be a part of the greater community. There motto is “Believe and you can achieve!”

Edited from Etgarim

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“If you will it, it is no dream”

Only 67 years old, no other country attracts such world attention, than tiny Israel, no bigger then Lake Michigan and sandwiched between hostile neighbors that still deny its right to exist.

As a witness to the anti-Semitic Dreyfus Affair, in France 1894, where Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish officer in the French army, was falsely accused of treason, Theodore Herzl, a journalist, ignited the modern Zionist movement and led a revolution, by daring to START-UP the Jewish people’s oldest dream – the return to their homeland, following 3500 years of exile, after the destruction of the second temple and expulsion of the Jews, by the Roman Empire.

And it happened!

Today, Israel is a beacon of light in an increasingly dark region. One of the freest democracies in the world, certainly in the Middle-East, it has survived over 5 existential wars and build a thriving economy, society, culture and military. It absorbed immigrants from every corner of the earth and grants full rights to all its citizens, including the Arab population who are fully represented in government, business, academics and all facets of life. It has a superb record on religious freedoms, woman rights, journalistic freedom, gay rights, environmental protection and many more rights. Short on natural resources, it relies on ‘Human Capitol’ and has become a world leader in technological, scientific and medical innovation.

Certainly not an overnight success and far from perfect, Israel’s accomplishments come with many hardships and it, like all other countries, face challenges, both internally due to growing socia-economic gaps, immigrant absorption, political tensions etc. and externally, from the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians; the threat of Islamic terror on all fronts and a totalitarian Iranian regime, with nuclear aspirations, who repeatedly threaten to “Wipe Israel off the map.”

Imbued with Herzl’s “against all odds” vision, Israeli’s, inherently take on this reality with a resilience and energy that keeps your heart beating at a fast pace. The country is growing quick and what was five years ago, is no longer today…

and perhaps, somewhere in the above, exists a message or two, for anyone looking to turn his or her dreams into a reality…??

 

 

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Israeli Aid in over 140 countries

On April 25, 2015, a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, killing over 7000 and leaving 8,000 wounded and tens of thousands seeking shelter and food. Israel was one of the first countries to respond.

According to CNN, the Israeli aid team to the Himalayan nation was one of the largest in manpower, numbering 260 people, more than all the other aid efforts examined by CNN combined.

The Israeli mission comprising of doctors and search and rescue personal, set up a 60 bed field hospital and treated 1600 patients, carrying out 85 life-saving surgeries, and delivering 8 babies. It also included members of Israeli organizations Magen-David Adom, ZAKA, Israel-Aid and Dream Doctors, who contributed their experience and assistance on the ground!

The story of Israeli humanitarian aid is not a new one, as Israel has always been amongst the first countries, offering international aid, following global natural disasters and accidents.

Back home, Israel has over 32,000 non-profit organizations, more then any country per-capita, in every field possible, and it tackles the complexities of defending itself against Palestinian terror organizations, that seek to destroy Israel, while providing humanitarian assistance to the general Palestinian population. Click here to learn more!

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Indian Friends of Israel!

Give a like to the growing ties between the people of India and Israel with Indian Friends for Israel!

“Started in 2012 by Indians living in Europe, Indians for Israel is driven with a deep sense of commitment towards the Jewish people and the Jewish State — in face of rising tide of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments. Their mission is to strengthen friendship and cooperation between India and Israel, as well as foster relationships between Indian and Jewish communities living in the diaspora across the world.

A poll conducted by Israel in 2009, shows that India, is in fact Israel’s biggest friend in the world! The poll interviewed 5,215 people from 13 countries (“Central” ones) found that 58 percent of people in India support Israel. Compared with 56 percent of U.S. citizens, 52 percent of Russians, 50 percent of Mexicans, 48 percent of Chinese and 39 percent of Italians.

Today, ‘Indians For Israel’ is the leading voice in defence of Israel amongst millions of Indians spread across the diaspora. The initiative is run by a network of dedicated volunteers located in India and the Indian diaspora. ‘Indians For Israel’ gives a platform to Indians of all faiths and political beliefs to stand up for Israel and the Jewish people.

Click here to show your support for Indians For Israel!

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Why I was almost lynched for the shirt I wore?

The story that inspired NU’s beginning, as featured in The Times of Israel Blog:

I will never forget walking into the opening ceremony at the UN World Conference Against Racism, in Durban, South Africa, 2001. I joined five Israelis from the World Union of Jewish Students, to unofficially represent Israel at the NGO conference preceding the main government conference, the week after.

There were over 20,000 people, packed in the Kingsmead cricket stadium, from all over the world, all wearing the same t-shirt. It was a white shirt with the picture of Muhammed Al-Dura, a young Palestinian boy that was allegedly killed by Israeli soldiers, at the outset of the second Intifada. It was later proved, beyond a doubt, in a Paris courtroom, that he was not killed by the IDF but rather by Palestinian gunmen. At that moment, in Durban, no was was asking. Nor, I imagine, did they ask who sponsored the free shirt at registration? In addition to Tshirts, the stadium was decorated in banners, “Zionim=Racism”, “Israel is an Apartheid State”, “Star of David=Swastika” and others. When Thabo Mbeki, the South African president at the time, spoke of the Palestinian cause to be discussed, the crowd erupted in excitement. For the first time, I removed my kippa from my head.

We returned to our hotel after the ceremony. We were shocked. We were expecting antagonism toward Israel but not in such an organized co-ordinated way. I cannot remember the conversation that followed but at some point someone suggested producing our own tshirt to distribute to participants. A few phone calls were made and soon we reached a generous member of the Durban Jewish community. He arranged for 20,000 of our own shirts to be produced and gave us one hour to send the design, while workers at a local tshirt company were called to work overnight. Our design had a blue Star of David, with a peace sign in the middle, on the front and the back a quote by Martin Luther King Jr, ‘Those that are anti-Israel are anti-Semitic.”

The next day, I went in a big delivery truck to fetch the shirts. The driver, had no idea what the purpose of the trip was. After the shirts were packed into the truck, I decided to travel in the windowless back, to sort the sizes, while on the way to the conference. On the highway, little did I know, making its way on a service road, a few meters outside the vehicle, was then, the largest anti-Israel rally that had ever taken place, since Israel’s establishment. Over 300,000 people, mostly Muslims, were heading toward Kingsmead.

We arrived and I was relieved to see the Israelis. As planned, we start handing out the free Tshirts. In the street in front of us, the front of the rally, bends around the corner and makes its way in our direction. The person leading the rally, an official steering committee member of the WCAR (later revealed.) She notices our shirts and starts to announce to the crowd, on a mega-phone, that they must, “Stop the Zionists from handing out their shirts!” I will leave it to your imagination as to what happened next but let’s say that before the South African police formed a circle of protection around us and escorted us to safety, there was violence. We were shocked. The next day, Marry Robinson, the deputy head of the UN, made a public apology to us, in person, during the main plenary session.

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Reflecting back on that day, which was just one of many crazy things that happened in Durban, I concluded two things. Firstly, and you don’t need me to tell you, is that the global perception of the State of Israel, is in ‘Dire Straits.’ Relatively hush in 2001, we encountered a well organized, influential and highly funded movement to delegitimize the State of Israel, as we are experiencing today with heightened intensity, via BDS.

Secondly, almost cynically, was a realization of the power that Tshirts have for conveying a message. I could not believe the impact that these ‘Threads’ have to influence an idea.

For this reason, eight years later, after making Aliya and serving as a combat soldier in the IDF, I decided to create an organization, NU Campaign- using Tshirts, design and education, to support important humanitarian causes in Israel and worldwide.

NU, is Hebrew slang for ‘Cmon’ and begs a response. Every shirt produced by NU has a unique design on the front and the story of the cause, printed inside, by the wearers heart. When you wear the shirt, you carry Israel, literally, by your heart, and become its “Human Billboard” and Ambassador, wherever you go.
Our shirts are sold worldwide and we have had the privilege of working with many amazing Israeli humanitarian organizations and innovators. We recently launched a new website, allowing anyone to create and promote your own shirt and our latest, in light of the upcoming ICC investigation into the IDF, during Operation Protective Edge, last year, in Gaza, is a design to highlight the morality of the IDF. So NU, what you waitimg for?

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What happens when your mind is telling you to quit?

Almost every time I run, I hit a point in the middle when my mind and body start begging me to quit. The same thing happens when I start a new work-related project or campaign. The initial hype usually follows a few set-backs, miscalculations, rejections, development issues etc. making the planned result or ‘Dream,’ appear as distant as warm weather to an Englishmen.

Quitting is always an option, usually rationalized by, “The pain was not worth it, who likes running anyway? Tomorrow is another day etc.” Someone once said to me that when things start out hard, it’s a sign that the thing is worth pursuing. He explained, ‘When something comes too easy, it often disappears just as quick, therefore ideas that require struggle are worth investing in.’

When we hear of successful start-up companies or other accomplishments, we are disillusioned, thinking that their achievement was instant. We are not told of the period of uncertainty, proceeding the ‘sell-out’ where the founders slaved day and night, with no end in sight, chasing an idea that could easily flop. Thomas Edison, before inventing the light bulb, registered over 200 unsuccessful patents and The Beatles became a hit, only  after years of rejection by production companies (some of whom are probably still crying today.)

Woody Allen said, “99% of success is just rocking up.” Nelson Mandela said, “Everything seems impossible until it’s done.” We all have challenges but I guess the question is ‘What do we do when our bodies and minds are telling us to quite?

 

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Butterflies & leaders

The following story featured “Inside” one of the first NU Campaign shirts for Masa-Israel’s Building Future Leadership Summit, in Jerusalem. We thought it quite an appropriate message for tomorrow’s leaders…

“A wise old man lived at the top of a hill in a small village. One day a clever little girl from the village, set out to prove that she was indeed the smartest person in site. She climbed the old mans hill and when she got to the top, she grabbed a butterfly in her hands. She approached the wise old man and challenged him to tell her if the butterfly was alive or dead?! She schemed that if he told her it was alive, she would crush it dead in her palms and if he said it was dead, she would open her hands and let it fly away. Both ways, she had him fooled! The wise old man, turned to the little girl and said,” Little girl, it’s all in your hands!”

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