Israelis rush to save Syrian children

(Photo: Facebook/Just Beyond Our Border)

The race is on to support Syrian child refugees before the freezing Middle Eastern winter truly bites – and Israelis are generously rushing to the aid of their neighbors in Syria, a nation known for its hostility to the Jewish state.

A grassroots Israeli charity campaign, Just Beyond the Border, raised almost half a million shekels in just two days and is well on its way to raising 1 million shekels ($260,000 or 250,000 euros) to buy food, medication and supplies.

“Thousands of orphans, lost, torn from their families, burned alive. Trapped. Not one of us knows their names,” the campaign highlights.

The campaign is marked by the speed of response and the breadth of Israeli supporters: religious and non-religious, Arab and Jew, Christian and Muslim. But it is specifically a product of Jewish identity.

“As an Israeli child I grew up asking where the world was when we needed them most. As a Jew I always knew that I was expected to be there, to help and lend a hand. There is no nation that knows better than us how lethal apathy can be,” coordinator Yoav Bakshi Yeivin told the Jerusalem Post. “The world is watching, considering its options, but as an Israeli, a Jew and a neighbor I can’t just stand by.”

Yeshua taught that loving our neighbor fulfills one of God’s two greatest commands and completes the Jewish Law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).

Israel is far from alone in supporting Syrian war victims amidst the horrors of almost six years of civil war resulting in more than 400,000 deaths, 6 million displaced within the nation’s borders, almost 5 million refugees (UN statistics), including over 11,000 children losing their homes daily.

However, Israel frequently takes its place as a first responder to some of the worst situations around the world, bringing highly technical humanitarian assistance. Last month, the Israel Defense Force received the highest UN award for its field hospital, with a proven record of response to sudden onset disasters in Turkey, Haiti, Nepal, the Philippines and also on the Syrian border.

Other examples of Israel’s international humanitarian outreach are IsraAID and Amalia, which also operates in Syria as well as a number of Israeli hospitals that continue to receive wounded Syrians.

Israel’s compassion is born out of centuries of suffering in the diaspora, the Crusades, the Inquisition, pogroms, the Holocaust, as well as through a series of modern day wars and terrorist attacks where she has been the victim of violent attack by aggressive neighbors. Redemptive suffering is indeed central to the nation’s Messianic hope, as the prophet Isaiah describes.

“He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.”
Isaiah 53:3-6

Perhaps the most compelling attribute of Just Beyond the Border’s Syria campaign is that ordinary Israelis are helping a country that has repeatedly warred against the Jewish state, right from its formation. The world’s media may sometimes portray Israelis as “militaristic” or “haters,” but that seems to be far from the reality of the unprecedented response to this crowd-funding campaign.

Just as the Messiah was wounded so that others might be healed, so too Israelis are sacrificially responding with compassion. The campaign calls on donors not to focus on “those that hate us,” but rather that “it’s time to open our eyes and face the horrors. It’s our turn to act, to do, to make a difference.”

In stark contrast, the radical Islamic response is more violence. In Ankara this week, the Russian ambassador to Turkey was gunned down in a photo gallery to the cry of his killer: “Don’t forget about Aleppo, don’t forget about Syria. Allahu Akbar.”

The Just Beyond the Border campaign also explicitly links prayer and action. For some in Israel prayer is a priority.

“Two months ago, on the eve of Yom Kippur, we — thousands of Israelis, men and women, religious and secular, Jews, Muslims, Christians — gathered to pray together and cry out,” the campaign says. “Now we turn to you, to take action with us. “

Donations can be made on the Mimoona crowd-funding platform and supplies will be transferred by another Israeli philanthropic organisation, NGO Israeli Flying Aid. Just 25 shekels ($6.50 or 6.25 euros) is enough to buy some needed medication and 45 shekels a child’s blanket.