Galit Cohen of IsraAID, an Israeli humanitarian organization working all over the world, speaks to United With Israel about IsraAid’s relief efforts in Oklahoma to provide assistance and aid to victims of the recent tornado.
United With Israel recently interviewed Galit Cohen. Galit Cohen is a staff member of IsraAID, an Israeli humanitarian organization, that is presently working on the ground in Moore, Oklahoma, helping American tornado victims by providing disaster relief and counseling. Although IsraAID was also active in the Oklahoman towns of Bethel and Little X, IsraAID decided to focus on Moore because it was hit the worst. IsraAID is the only international humanitarian organization providing disaster relief assistance to Oklahoma at this time.
Presently, the situation is quite dire in the areas where IsraAID is operating. According to Cohen, “It’s extremely bad. It’s shocking. You have cars where you can’t see that it was a car until you see the tires.” She described a trailer park where only 5 out of the 30 trailers survived and how homes were transformed overnight into piles of wood and bricks. Cohen claims that the devastation was so bad that it will take years to fix it. The situation is particularly bad for communities in Oklahoma that lacked insurance to cover the cost of damages.
Cohen told United With Israel that every day, IsraAID is given a new assignment and they go wherever the victims are to help them salvage and rebuild their lives. Once they cleared a park that was full of fallen wood. Most of the time, they help families clear the debris from their homes and their yards, and to rescue whatever small items that they can, before the bulldozers come in to tear down the wreckage. Cohen claimed that in most instances, there was not much left for them to rescue because of the damage incurred by the tornado, yet at times, some families are lucky enough to salvage some things. For example, one woman just wanted to be able to save her sons ring from his football team and with the help of IsraAID, she was able to do so.
In addition, IsraAID has been providing counseling to the local population in tornado affected areas in Oklahoma, who were traumatized in the wake of the natural disaster. According to Cohen, “We had a specialist in trauma management and counseling and she worked in Little X with the Red Cross and with the victims of the tornado and tried to calm them down. She worked with a woman who lost all her clothes except one outfit and all she wanted was a plastic bag for what was left of her house. A counselor helped her. This is the level of devastation.”
The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “The worst sin to our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that is the essence of inhumanity!” This is why Israel has helped to promote women’s rights and combat gender-based violence in South Sudan, assisted Haiti with medical care and agriculture, and worked to help Hurricane Sandy victims. Helping others is one of the core values of the Jewish people. IsraAid’s mission is to “support and empower the efforts of local communities affected by war, natural disaster, acute poverty and massive displacement, to move from emergency situations to sustainable living.”
The local population in Oklahoma has received IsraAID very warmly. According to Cohen, “We inspire people by our existence here. There is eternal gratitude. We had a group of people from the Christian community” who “said that our presence inspired them to keep up their work.” One woman whom Cohen encountered in Oklahoma was very impressed that people would come from the other end of the world just to help out. Cohen claims that it was not just her, for members of Oklahoma society, whether they are waiters, working in McDonalds, or are members of the Jewish or Christian community are “moved by our presence here.” According to Cohen, “The entire community from Oklahoma gave us a group hug.”
About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel's Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."
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