Israel Independence Day Gift: Exporting Israel’s Humanitarian Expertise to the World
In the 63 years since its independence, Israel has emerged as one of the world’s leaders in humanitarian aid to both developing nations as well as to regions suffering from natural or manmade disasters such as Japan and Haiti. Less known, is Israel’s unique ability to provide expertise and social innovations to struggling nations throughout the world. Since its founding, Israel has faced countless challenges, particularly relevant to developing countries, including building a modern infrastructure over a short period of time, surviving and recovering from wars, sustaining agriculture in an arid climate, immigration explosion, economic upheaval, and navigating diverse populations. Tag International Development, a London based NGO, connects Israeli experts in the areas of disaster preparedness, emergency medicine, and community development with local humanitarian organizations in ten developing nations including Kenya, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, South Africa, Ethiopia, India, and Georgia. “Israel is uniquely placed to help developing countries, given that it has faced many of the same challenges in recent years and has successfully overcome most of them,” Tag founder and director Rabbi Yossi Ives said. Ives, Rabbi of a large Orthodox congregation in London and father of seven, founded Tag ID in 2010 to help spread Israeli humanitarian innovations to the world, while helping to improve Israel’s public image. “The Jewish people and Israel in particular, have a huge amount to offer the world, and therefore a huge responsibility to make as full a contribution as possible to international development,” he said. “The greatest gift we can give Israel is to give the gift of Israel to the world.” Tag connects Israeli experts with established charities, government agencies, and community networks in the developing countries and primarily focuses on empowerment and health of women, youth and the elderly. Tag’s partners in Israel include Magen David Adom (MDA), Matav, Yad Sarah, the Weitz Institute, Hadassah Hospital, Israel’s Center for International Cooperation (MASHAV), and the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Tag’s projects currently include creating safe child play areas in mine affected regions of Azerbaijan, implementing agricultural advancement programs in Sri Lanka, providing school safety and water supply protection programs in Myanmar in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, as well as establishing woman’s health clinics and community centers in Indonesia. Tag is also exporting Matav’s home-care expertise for the elderly to Indonesia, and MDA’s paramedical skills to Azerbaijan’s and Georgia’s emergency response team, as well as to the Kenya’s wildlife service that handles medical emergencies in their national parks. “TAG ID is committed to being a long term partner which is very important for us as long term cooperation ensures sustainability of projects,” Ms. Nana Tskhondia, deputy director general of the Georgian Red Cross, said. “This in turn, strengthens the institutional capacity of the organization.” Additionally, Tag is currently developing a network of organizations involved in disaster response and prevention, based on an initiative started by the JDC in 2007. Made up of professionals from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Turkey, Jordan, India, Thailand and Israel, its aim is to promote regional cooperation and identify opportunities for development following disasters. Future projects are also being planned in Zanzibar, Rwanda and the Ukraine. “Human beings cannot prevent natural disasters, however we can prepare and be ready for them when they arise,” Ms. Su Sanda Hlaing said. Ms. Hlaing--the project manager of Myanmar based NGO LEAD (Link Emergency Aid and Development)—partnered with Tag-ID to organize an emergency response training seminar in Myanmar earlier this year.

“In this context, cooperation [with organizations like Tag] is the most essential thing. . . We are confident that if we had attended such a training before three years ago, we wouldn’t have had to suffer such hardship [during Cyclone Nargis].” “Israel has more humanitarian expertise per square inch than any other country in the world,” Rabbi Ives said. “Think what could happen if it’s full impact was realized in developing countries across the globe.”

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