Israel’s 34 day Lebanese War, now hopefully on hold, created a lot of friction between northern residents and local/national government officials, especially in regards to providing assistance for more than one million people during this period. A few private philanthropists, however, took on themselves to help alleviate people’s suffering, by providing temporary accommodations in the central and southern parts of Israel; and at their own expense.
Though not a perfect solution, billionaire Arkady Gaidamak‘s “Tent City” in the southern city of Nitzanim (the same place where a number of former Gaza settlers still live in temporary accommodations), helped give northerners at least a feeling of safety: and also a feeling that someone really cared for their welfare. Though the government finally did jump on the bandwagon by creating similar accommodations at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, Gadarnak’s immediate efforts showed that private individuals and organizations can often provide solutions much quicker than government departments or ministries bogged down in indecisiveness and ‘red tape’ bureaucracy. Another known philanthropist, Dudu Zibershlag ,who together with his wife head a social assistance ‘umbrella’ organization, Meir Panim, helped provide clothing, food, toys, and other needed items to needy people, many of them who fled their northern communities with little more than the clothes on their backs.
A number of wealthy Israelis living abroad also got into the act, including former fashion model Ilana Shoshan-Diament, now living in Los Angeles; who together with her husband Moshe, distributed more than $40,000 worth of toys and games obtained from an on-line toy company. Ilana also provided comfort to the firefighters who battled blazes set by exploding Katyusha rockets. She personally distributed large quantities of cake and soft drinks to them during the crises.
A number of Israeli personalities, including Asst. Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, have gone abroad on fundraising campaigns to raise money to help rebuild the damage caused to northern communities and assist residents there to put their shattered lives back together again. Barak’s mission, to cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta, hopes to raise a sum of $300 million for the needed rebuilding and economic restoration.
Numerous articles have already been written about how the country’s northern residents felt abandoned by the government and left to languish in either inadequate shelters, or to fend for themselves by seeking safer havens further south. The efforts of members of Israel’s private citizenry and especially by people such as Gaidamak and Zibershlag, helped fill in the gaps when government officials were too busy holding press conferences to express their wartime rhetoric.