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Gift of the Givers partnership crucial to saving lives in Mozambique

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JORDAN MOSHE

In this, the SAJBD joins other Jewish communal organisations the world over that are doing what they can to bring relief to the suffering region.

“When we heard of the devastation in Mozambique and the terrible suffering, we decided to activate the generosity of our community,” says SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn.

Regarded as one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to affect Africa, Cyclone Idai made landfall on 14 March, lashing the Mozambican port city of Beira with winds of up to 170kph. Moving inland towards Zimbabwe and Malawi, it has flattened buildings and killed at least 656 people across the three countries. Flooding has left thousands homeless and displaced, all of them in desperate need of the relief which has been entering the region over the past week.

The groups involved include Israeli humanitarian group IsraAid, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and Cadena SA. The Israeli group has committed itself to providing relief supplies and medical care, restoring access to water, and offering psychological support to those affected. Providing emergency medical supplies through its partner, the Afya Foundation, the JDC will deploy a response and assessment team, including a disaster relief expert and field medic to the devastated nation in the coming days. As for Cadena, the group will collaborate with IsraAid and install water filters and solar lamps in affected areas, as well as transport various essential supplies.

Over the years, the SAJBD has arranged many relief missions on the continent. Kahn explains why it is challenging to deliver aid to the stricken region. “We were faced with the complex logistical task of transferring aid to Beira where it is desperately needed. Since there are no supplies in crisis areas, we needed to send goods not money.”

She says that what the SAJBD needed was a transport mechanism to get food and relief items to areas that need it, hence its partnership with GOTG. “The Gift of the Givers has great experience with these relief missions. It has the logistical ability, and kindly offered to transport our supplies.”

“Over many years, the GOTG has assisted us to transport aid into Africa. During the xenophobia crisis in 2008, we worked alongside it in drawing up schedules to facilitate Muslim prayer times and our Shabbat requirements. When there is humanitarian crisis, we will do what we need to alleviate suffering.”

The partnership has elicited a mixed response from the South African Jewish community. “As always, South African Jewry are generous and enthusiastic to help,” she says. “Before we even went public with the campaign, we had requests from members of our community.”

However, some were furious at the partnership with GOTG.

Initially established on the instruction of a Sufi Sheik, Muhammed Saffer Effendi al Jerrahi in Istanbul in 1992, GOTG is the largest disaster relief organisation of African origin on the African continent. Its efforts to deliver aid has resulted in it giving R2.1 billion to 43 countries around the world, including South Africa.

Recipients include the Gaza Strip, where they have sent supplies and specialist trauma doctors in times of conflict between Israeli forces and Hamas. Recognising the area as “Palestine”, the aid organisation continues to provide medical, financial, and education support to Gazan civilians in projects until today.

Responding to the announcement of the partnership on Facebook, one user wrote, “Well done. You partnered with the one of the most anti-Israel organisations in South Africa. Other users agreed, with one saying, “Israel has sent aid… no need to partner with the devil’s agent.” Another said, “Was there no pro-Israel or at least not pro-Islam organisation you could have partnered with?”

Others, however, welcomed the partnership. Responding on Facebook, a user wrote, “This warms my heart. To see two organisations, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies and Gift of the Givers put aside their differences over the Israel/Palestine conflict to help Mozambican flood victims. Working together, we can make the world a better place.”

Other users agreed, stressing that differences should be put aside considering the pressing need of those suffering. “The help is not going to Gift of the Givers,” wrote one user. “It is going to people who are in the most terrible circumstances. We should be better than this.” Another supportive voice said that though he was no fan of Gift of the Givers, the need to deliver aid was more important.

Criticism of the partnership has upset some. “Have you all heard what is going on in Mozambique?” writes one. “People who have climbed into trees are falling into rivers and being attacked by crocs. [The] dead are piling up everywhere. It’s not the time nor the place to stop being human! Help is needed, and we as fellow caring humans have to put our differences aside and work together. There is no place for ferribles or politics here. Have u no humanity?”

Kahn says that in spite of the criticism, the SAJBD remains committed to its cause. “We believe that in the face of a humanitarian crisis, we must respond swiftly,” she says. “The only other alternative we had was not to transport goods to the people of Mozambique. That is not an option for the SAJBD and for South African Jewry. When there is a need, we will respond.”

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Janine Goodson

    Mar 30, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    ‘To be honest, I am dead against this arrangement. I think there are other ways the Jewish community in SA could have gotten their good etc to the desperate people in Mozambique. Gift of the Givers supports terrorism against Israel, they support Hamas, even Isis, they lie about Israel in their Pro Palestinian fund raising, they have pictures of Israel in the worst light on their website dealing with Gaza. This is what I call " sleeping with the enemy’! Yes, we need to help but not through a Islamic group attached to the larger Islamic Council in SA who entertain Hamas in SA and will not recognise Israel as a Jewish state. I am disgusted with this and will not support it in any way at all. Give to the Red Cross , Unicef, anything else but not Gift of the Givers. It is courting the devil in disguise. Sickening to the core. ‘

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