I’ve just returned from the Middle East. Until the tragedy in Haiti, I planned to tell you about the exceptional people I met in Israel, the meaningful places I went, and the unforgettable classes I experienced. Everything must wait because right now, I feel it’s impossible to write – or think – about anything else but the earthquake victims. Tens of thousands Haitian are missing, most likely dead; several million more are displaced, with no place to live and no where to go. In my mind, this tragedy – and our response to it – must be our focus right now.
And as you’ll see, there is a connection to the Holocaust, which is at the heart of The Last Album and Eyes from the Ashes Educational Foundation. And it does have a connection to my visit to Israel a few weeks ago. Read on.
The American Statesman (January18, 2010) published an article detailing international relief efforts in Haiti, and Israel’s disproportionate response. The article compared responses of various countries to help, and Israel’s extraordinary efforts are more than surprising – especially considering population.
Here’s a short excerpt:
The U.S. has pledged $100 million and sent supplies and personnel. The U.K. pledged $10 million and sent 64 firemen and 8 volunteers. China, a country with a population of 1,325,639,982, compared to Israel’s 7.5 million, sent 50 rescuers and seven journalists. The 25 Arab League nations sent nothing.
Despite its small size, Israel sent a large contingent of highly trained aid workers to quake-stricken Haiti. Two jumbo jets carrying more than 220 doctors, nurses, civil engineers, and other Israeli army personnel, including a rescue team and field hospital, were among the first rescue teams to arrive in Haiti.
Israel’s “disproportionate” response stems from Jewish memory and tradition. Mati Goldstein, head of the ZAKA International Rescue Unit delegation managed described the scene, “Everywhere, the acrid smell of bodies hangs in the air. It’s just like the stories we are told of the Holocaust – thousands of bodies everywhere
I canâ€™t help but wonder what would have happened if, 70 years ago, the world responded quickly and effectively while the Jews were being brutalized, starved, beaten and murdered. How many more people might be alive today? And from these people, and from their children who never had a chance to be born, how many medical advances might have discovered? How many symphonies composed or works of art created? There is no way to know for sure.
There is nothing we can do about the past. But there is something we can do right now.
What can we do? At the moment, volunteers are ready to help, but unless someone has emergency medical training, it is better for these volunteers to wait. Soon enough there will be a time when roads need to built and buildings need to be repaired. Over these last few days I spent time working with Kathy Kelly of Global Action Foundation. We were organizing medical volunteers (and passport numbers). She was arranging flights, talking to people at the Haitian Embassy and government representatives – ours and theirs – to do what can be done, and to do it in the most timely way.
Right now, the need is for money – not people. If you want to help – and I hope you do – the urgent need is for funds. In this crucial effort, our educational foundation, Eyes from the Ashes, is joining with Global Action, to raise money to get immediate relief to the Haitians. If you want to help, donate directly to:
Global Action at www.goact.org – Every dollar designated for Haiti will go directly to help Haiti – not one penny will be spent on overhead during this crisis!
Let me be clear about this: The earthquake in Haiti is not like the Holocaust. No one set out to murder and destroy a people, as the Nazis did to the Jews. The Jews were abandoned by most of the people of the world. Haiti is a natural disaster. The Holocaust is one of manâ€™s own making. It was people who killed people.
And let me also be clear about this: While there are lives to be saved in Haiti, let us do everything possible to do that. As during the Holocaust, the world and many good people looked away. Let us not do that any more.
Right now the priority is to save – and then to help rebuild – lives. After that, let us go back and focus on issues of education, and making this world a better place – through action and education/actions that make a difference and education that helps to open minds.
Yours in peace,