by Gil Shefler with JPost.com Staff | JPost.com | March 11, 2011
Hours after a 8.9 magnitude earthquake followed by a devastating tsunami struck Japan, Jewish and Israeli humanitarian groups on Friday pledged to help relief efforts in the island nation.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) on Friday announced it was collecting funds for relief efforts and has reached out to the Japanese Government to offer its expertise in earthquake and tsunami-related response.
“Our prayers and sympathies go out to the families of those lost in the earthquake in Japan and as we have before in Haiti and in nations struck by the Indian Ocean Tsunami, JDC will leverage its disaster relief expertise and strong partnerships in the region to react swiftly and sympathetically to the needs of victims,” said Steven Schwager, JDC’s Chief Executive Officer.
Meanwhile, IsraAID-FIRST, an Israeli umbrella group of relief organizations, said Friday morning it was preparing to send a team of experts to the island nation to assist in relief efforts.
“We’ve been looking past few hours at the damage and the needs,” IsrarAID head Shahar Zehavi said. “Our main agenda is to send a delegation of earthquakes specialists and water purification experts to the region.”
Zehavi said the delegation should arrive in Japan by Saturday morning but that its schedule depends on air traffic to and from Japan.
While IsraAID teams often work in the third world –it has a permanent mission in Haiti and is helping rehabilitate that nation which is still recovering from last year’s earthquake-Zehavi said they were no strangers to working in developed nations either.
“Western countries are different than developing countries, but if you look at Hurricane Katarina then you’ll see they aren’t fundamentally different,” he said. “Our main thing has been reaching out and showing them we care. “
IsraAID’s receives funding from the Jewish Federation of Toronto, other Jewish groups and private donations.
Two delegations from ZAKA will depart from Israel and Hong Kong to assist in rescue efforts after the conclusion of Shabbat in each respective time zone.
The delegation decided to depart after consulting with the Foreign Ministry and Chabad in Japan, according to a press release from the organization. The ZAKA team was expected to be met upon arrival by Israeli Ambassador to Japan Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, according to the statement.