Gal Lusky, the founder of Israeli Flying Aid, recently sat down for an interview with Israel National Radio's Mike Cohen. Lusky described her organization's daring operations in countries hostile to Israel, including Pakistan and Indonesia.
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Israel Flying Aid was created to provide assistance to disaster struck regions in countries without diplomatic ties to Israel, Lusky explained. The non-governmental aid group aims to help victims of humanitarian disasters and to improve Israel's image at the same time.
Hot meals being served in Indonesia after the May 2006 earthquake
The organization sometimes flies under the Israeli flag and sometimes conceals its origins until immediately prior to leaving the area, Lusky said, depending on the country in question. “Wherever we go, even when we go below the radar, it's well known where we come from,” she added.
IFA activists have taken part in complex missions in areas such as Darfur, Indonesia and the Kashmir region of Pakistan. Even the United Nations and Red Cross had trouble providing aid in Kashmir after the latest earthquake in the area, Lusky noted, but IFA succeeded in reaching the region and assisting victims. “It was a very complicated mission, but it happened,” she said.
After reaching a disaster-struck region, the group begins providing food and necessary supplies to victims. When victims are unable to cook, IFA often sets up mass cooking centers capable of providing 7,000-10,000 hot meals a day.
The exact type of aid provided by the group varies according to the need, Lusky said. In the past three and a half years, the aid provided has included warm overcoats and fur-lined shoes for those left homeless in the Kashmir earthquake, which took place in mid-winter, and psychological care for Indonesian children who lost relatives to that country's earthquake along with food and other basics.
The volunteers often encounter hostility, Lusky said. “We meet people that are very surprised to discover we come from Israel, and [hear] some shocking stories, even from the children, about how the mullah describes us, or the mosque... it's sad. It's sad, but that's why we continue running.”
'How Many of You Would Come for Us?'
Lusky described her group's experiences in Indonesia to illustrate her point. In Indonesia Israeli volunteers posed as Europeans due to the presence of Al-Qaeda terrorists and Muslim fundamentalists in the area.
While treating child trauma victims, a psychologist asked the children to draw the things they feared, Lusky said. While most children depicted the recent earthquake that had devastated the region, one young orphan drew a war and explained that he was afraid of “el Yahud,” the Jews, who had been described by his local mullah as having sharp teeth and being dangerous for children.
On the final day of the mission, Lusky told the local children and adults who had frequented the mobile aid center that her group was actually from Israel. Everyone went quiet. “It was embarrassing, because we had 120 adults cooking for us, 10,000 meals every day, and we had 220 orphans that came every day for post-trauma treatment... Everybody was silent,” she recalled.
Lusky then asked her hundreds of listeners if, knowing who had helped them, they would come to help Israeli civilians in case of a similar disaster in Israel. None of the 120 Indonesian adults present raised their hands, she said, but every single one of the 220 children said they would help Israel.
"For the hope you're giving us, we'll continue running around the world, risking our lives, to help people that consider themselves our enemies,” she told the children.