Israelife Coalition leaving Israel for Florida, via Atlanta, on September 12. [Photo Credit: United Hatzalah of Israel]

An 8-member Israeli coalition, comprised of members of The Israel Rescue Coalition (IRC) and United Hatzalah (UH) Search and Rescue team left Israel this past Saturday night for Florida to assist the victims of Hurricane Irma. Due to the weather conditions on the ground, the team was forced to ground in Atlanta, where they picked up supplies needed for the trip to Florida. In Atlanta, the team went to Beth Jacob synagogue of Toco Hills, where they met the synagogue congregation who were busy providing food and shelter for some 1,500 Irma evacuees. Before heading to Florida, the team will continue to assist hurricane evacuees that are now Atlanta and Savannah.

Dr. Shula Wittenstein, a member of the IRC and UH team who is working as an EMS responder as well as a member of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response team, spoke about why the team felt it was important that they stop to help the evacuees in Atlanta. “We know what it’s like living in a country with a lot of terror, where we feel the impact every day. This is a different type of experience and challenge but it still involves a certain amount of tragedy and loss for many people. We want to reach out to these people in any way we can and help them immediately in the best and most professional way possible. It is pretty obvious that we have a big job to do here and I hope that we will be able to help as many people as we can.” Dr. Wittenstein is a Psychologist who volunteers with United Hatzalah in Israel by providing psychological and emotional stabilization and first aid to people who need it in the immediate aftermath of traumatic situations.

The Israel coalition is joined by two members from the US. Of the Israeli contingent, four members are part of Israel’s Search and Rescue Units, three are EMS trained members of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit and one is a trained EMT.

Israeli Aid Hurricane Harvey Victims in Houston

This past week, The Jerusalem Post reported that International aid organization iAid, a nonprofit organization based in Israel, sent 10 relief professionals to coordinate efforts with the Texas National Guard and American NGOs.

“We have contacts on the ground there and people in the Jewish community,” said iAid founding director Shachar Zahavi said. “We plan to mainly focus on distribution of relief items and helping people gut out their houses in the short run.” In the long term, iAid hopes to help with technological needs of the community, such as water purification, using Israel innovations, Zahavi added.

In another display of Israeli solidarity with the victims of Hurricane Harvey, the United Hatzalah of Israel organization, a volunteer emergency medical service organization, sent a 6-person team to Houston to help Hurricane Harvey victims cope with trauma. The team was led by Miriam Ballin, Ultra Orthodox Jew currently living in Israel, who grew up in Houston, Texas.

The Lev Haolam family sends our thoughts and prayers to the all those that have already been affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. We hope and pray that these hurricanes and the devastation they leave in their path pass quickly and wish for a speedy relief and recovery for all those that have been affected by the hurricanes. Stay safe!