MK Nadia Hilou 248 88 aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Jerusalem Post news editor is on a trip to the United States to cover the United Jewish Communities General Assembly in Los Angeles.
This is a story that broke during the war, and it came up again today at the GA. It's about the UJC's Israel Emergency Campaign [IEC], which raised about $334 million from American Jewish Federations for emergency aid and reconstruction to Israel over this past summer. At some stage during the planning of the allocation of the funds that the UJC was going to distribute to Israel, UJC leadership made a decision that non-Jewish Israelis living in the north would also be included in the aid package.
That decision led some in the American Jewish community to protest the fact that Jewish money was going to non-Jews, although I am told that no organized Federation or large donor protested. The protest came from some people who wanted to promote the plight of the Gaza Strip evacuees, many of whom have not been properly served by the government and are still languishing in temporary housing, as well as finding it hard to find employment. A UJC official told me today that these people had tried to link the issue of the Gaza evacuees with the Emergency Campaign and that the complaint he heard went something like this: "Look, how can you give money to non-Jews when there are Jews who still need our help. This is Jewish money and it should go to Jews."
I spoke today with Hagai Merom, the Treasurer for the JA, who told me that the UJC knew all along that it was going to spend money in the Israeli-Arab sector, that it was a natural decision to include in the aid package all of the residents of the war-stricken North. "The UJC leadership was unanimous in saying that non-Jews were equal human beings, and that especially at a time of emergency, this important human value was critical."
Merom said that six percent of the $60 million that had reached Israel from the IEC had gone to help Arab and Druse villages in the north. He said the money went to evacuate children from Arab villages under rocket threat to summer camps in the center of the country. Some money also went to service bomb shelters. Merom added that money has now been allocated to the non-Jewish sector on a project-basis dealing with social services like education and help for small businesses, especially, but not exclusive to, mixed Arab-Jewish villages in the Galilee.
JA Chairman Ze'ev Bielski said that the Arab community in Israel knows that donor money came from US Jews. "Katyusha rockets did not make a distinction between Jewish and Arab kids, so we are not going to make that distinction either," he said.
Labor MK Nadia Hilu, the Knesset's first Arab Catholic woman MK, however, told me she was surprised to hear about that figure, and was not aware of where that money went to. "I haven't seen that money. I traveled the North during the war. The Arab kids didn't have toys to play with. That they [the Jewish Agency] evacuated some Arab kids from the North to the summer camps for a day or two is not good enough," she said. Hilu added that she would soon be meeting with UJC Israel Director Nahman Shai to talk about streamlining UJC aid to the non-Jewish sector.
Hilu, reacting to the fact that some in the Jewish community in America had raised an eyebrow or two when informed that Jewish donor money was going to non-Jews, said, "People who think that they can sent money to Israel for social services without some of that money going to non-Jews are fooling themselves."
Carole Solomon, on the executive board of the Jewish Agency, said something quite memorable today. She said that the recent war had "brought out the best of the Diaspora and the Israeli people."
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