Do-it-yourself donors help protect northern workers

Two Kfar Havradim residents raise money and distribute flak jackets, helmets, and flashlights.

bank leumi shelters88 29 (photo credit: Courtesy photo)
bank leumi shelters88 29
(photo credit: Courtesy photo)
For the past week, two private individuals from the Western Galilee town of Kfar Havradim have been careening around the North in a small white van distributing flak jackets, helmets and flashlights to emergency workers in towns and villages along the confrontation line. The two men, British-born Natan Golan and Beersheba native Hanan Chen, came up with the idea themselves, raised the money for the project single-handedly and are now implementing it in person. They, together with Yael Bar-Lev, are the founders of the non-profit organization Galila - The Northern Galilee Development Foundation. Galila only recently received its final authorization from the Registrar of Non-Profit Organizations and was embarking on its first project - a plan to distribute 2,500 school bags to children who lack them - when the current hostilities erupted. On July 13, one day after the fighting began, Golan and Chen met with Shlomo Buhbut, head of the Ma'alot-Tarshiha local council and the Forum of Confrontation Line Communities and asked how they could help. Buhbut told them to figure it out themselves. Although Golan spent many years in Jerusalem, he has had a long love affair with the Galilee, a passion which was consummated only a few months ago when he moved to Kfar Havradim. He came to Israel by himself at the age of 15 through the Youth Aliya movement. Golan was born to a family belonging to the anti-Zionist Satmar Hassidim. He describes himself as "a rebel with a cause." Golan has spent his professional life as a consultant to donors and foundations. Between 1988 and 1998 he was head of the Israeli office of the San Francisco Jewish Federation and, afterwards, UJA-Britain. Most of the projects he was involved with during those years were located in the north, including the music and dance center at Kfar Blum and the sports center in Merom Hagalil. During the 1996 Operation Grapes of Wrath, aimed at destroying Hizbullah infrastructure in south Lebanon and minimizing the Katyusha rocket threat, he helped raise $150,000 in emergency funding for northern communities and spent time in a Kiryat Shmona bomb shelter. Thus, when the fighting broke out two weeks ago, he was not only highly motivated, but also experienced and with excellent connections abroad. These connections have yielded $500,000 in two weeks. Golan and Chen have already delivered 600 flak jackets, 200 helmets and 250 flashlights to Jewish, Druse and Arab communities along the confrontation line. They have also installed 105 air conditioners at a cost of $1,000 per unit and plan to deliver another 95. This entire do-it-yourself philanthropic system is based on trust. Golan calls contacts in the US and England, many of whom know him from his past work. He tells them what he needs. They take him at his word and promise to send the money in the coming days. Golan does not wait for the money to arrive. He and Chen have paid cash for many of the items they bought out of their personal savings on the basis of the donors' verbal promises, many of which have already come through. When their own money had run out and contractors demanded payment in advance, Golan and Chen found a Nahariya businessman whom they call "Baruch the Tzadik" to loan them cash without a moment's hesitation. It all seems to be working. Day after day, the van pulls up in one community after another and deposits the flak jackets, helmets and flashlights, which are earmarked for local authority workers, including social workers, maintenance people and employees delivering food, games and other items to shelters. It is all done without fanfare. On Wednesday, the van parked itself behind the fire station, in the industrial area of Hatzor Haglilit. Golan and Chen helped two or three municipal workers bring the items into the municipal warehouse, bade a quick and unceremonious good-bye, and moved on to their next stop, Kiryat Shmona.