Gov't, NGOs argue over Gaydamak's help to Sderot

PMO says Israel doesn't need to rely on wealthy individuals to do its job.

Arkadi Gaydamak 88 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Arkadi Gaydamak 88 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The government is doing what it can to help Sderot residents and the country does not need to rely on wealthy individuals or NGOs to do its job, Ehud Prawer, head of policy planning in the Prime Minister's Office, said Tuesday. He was speaking at the World Council of Jewish Communal Service's Quadrennial Conference, being held this week in Jerusalem. Prawer was referring to Russian-born billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak, who built a make-shift "holiday" resort offering respite for Sderot residents from the daily barrage of Kassam rockets and, according to a recent poll, is viewed by more than one-fifth of Israelis as a champion of social welfare issues. Prawer said the state was now involved in a range of services for Gaza border residents, including weeklong "vacations" from the attacks. "The government is building the core of the activities in Sderot, with NGOs there helping to improve the situation," said Prawer, whose presentation was part of a panel discussion focusing on the roles of the state, voluntary agencies and world Jewry in regards to Israel's critical social challenges. During an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Prawer denied that Gaydamak had set the standard for helping those in distress or that the government had been slow to respond to the need of its citizen. "How we should provide such services was a process that was thought up independently by the government," Prawer told the Post. However, Sari Revkin, executive director of the community empowerment organization Yedid, who also spoke at the session, lashed out at what he called the government's failure to address the needs of its citizens, especially in regards to Sderot and the situation created by last summer's rocket attacks on the North. "We obviously live in different countries and see a different reality," Revkin said, referring to Prawer's speech. "One of the major problems [faced by Israeli society today] is the lack of belief in the government. Starting before the Second Lebanon War, and highly exaggerated following it, the people of Israel saw that those they thought would protect them did not provide for or take care of them as promised." "I'm happy that the government has finally taken on the responsibility to take the citizens of Sderot out for a week," she said. "Gaydamak's actions should be seen as a catalyst for change and he is an excellent role model."