Should Jews Help Syrian Refugees?
I think this is a fair question. Don't you? With all of the violence erupting in Israel and around the Middle East, and so many anti-Israel campaigns evolving, do we need to be lending a hand to our mortal enemies?
I spoke to Yoel Shoshani, the son of our good friends from Jerusalem who went to see for himself and shared with me the following eyewitness account of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees stranded on the shores of a Greek island.
An Eyewitness Story
The refugees are part of the hundreds of thousands flooding into Turkey attempting to reach European countries whose borders are closing. The Turkish government, unable or unwilling to help is scurrying the men, women and children onto inflatable rubber rafts, 50-60 at a time, and casting them out to sea toward the Greek island of Lesbos. Turkish government sources have reported that every day about 5,000 refugees find themselves drifting onto the shores of the island's beaches.
Shoshani told me about an Israeli team waiting on the beach called IsraAID. Made up of Israeli Arab and Jewish doctors and other medical personnel they have set up station on the island shores in an attempt to assist the refugees who wash up injured, exhausted and helpless. Some of them carry serious injuries from the fighting in Syria. The Israeli team are unique in their ability to aid the refugees, far more than others who are also trying, because they can speak Arabic.
Shoshani landed on the island beach with a team from Jerusalem to report on the work of Israeli humanitarian aid.
"We are producing a film which documents the work of Israeli humanitarian efforts around the globe," he explains. Shoshani pointed out that there are numerous organizations all over the world who work closely with the IsraAID team. That is a unique phenomenon among nations generally hostile towards Israel. "The IsrAID team are doing a lot for Israel's reputation around the world," he told me.
Since the beginning of this year more than 300,000 refugees have fled for their lives from the devastating civil war in Syria and with winter on the horizon the situation is becoming desperate. In addition to the medical assistance and first aid the Israeli team are also providing the Syrian refugees with food, water and warm clothes for the 70 kilometer march to the nearest Greek town where they are seeking shelter.
Fixing Our World?
Shoshani believes that helping the stranded refugees is part of what we call "Tikun Olam," a concept in Judaism which translates loosely to something like "fixing our world." It is one way of moving humanity in the right direction by performing good deeds.
Shoshani is making an appeal to the Messianic Jewish community in Israel to consider offering support in the efforts to help the beached Syrian refugees. Syria remains one of Israel's most lethal enemies and given the deep seated hatred and numerous all-out wars of the Syrian army to destroy Israel one could hardly imagine a greater fulfillment of the commandment to give ones enemy a cup of water when he is thirsty.
The organization he works with are actively involved in over 60 different countries bringing humanitarian aid. Listening to his passion for helping these people, although they are our enemies, made me think that doing good to others just might help point all of us in the right direction and contribute to "Tikun Olam."
It reminds me of the story of Jonah who also did not want to go up to Nineveh in Syria and bring the Good News to Israel's enemies. He ended up in the belly of a huge fish on the bottom of the sea. Better change my attitude before I'm sunk too!