Filipinos in Israel pray for their missing relatives

Donation boxes were set up at Filipino-owned markets, travel agencies, banks in Tel Aviv to help typhoon victims find loved ones.

filipino migrant women 311 (photo credit: Mya Guarnieri)
filipino migrant women 311
(photo credit: Mya Guarnieri)
After Typhoon Haiyan ravaged islands in the central Philippines, leaving perhaps up to 10,000 dead and 800,000 displaced, Israel’s community of Filipino foreign workers is raising contributions for the victims and looking for loved ones lost in the fray.
Donation boxes were set up at Filipino-owned markets, travel agencies, and banks at the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, one of the community’s main gathering places in Israel, home to tens of thousands of Filipino foreign workers.
Choking back tears, Filipino foreign worker and Tacloban City native Emma Fernanda told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that she has still not been able to reach her husband, Nelson, after five days of silence in which he hasn’t answered his phone or emails. She’s spent much of the past few days glued to her computer, searching databases of survivors for his name, to no avail, she said.
“I told my son John Michael everything is OK,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s true, but I want to be strong for him.”
Fernanda said she has lived in Israel for 18 years, and her 14-year-old son John Michael was born in the country not long before her husband returned to the Philippines in 2003. She lives in Tel Aviv’s Yemenite Quarter and has inlaws in Arad who are also looking for family members, including her mother-in-law and her sister-in-law and her children.
She said her friends have been supportive, offering kind words and encouraging her to pray for her husband’s safe return, while her son, she said, tried to send NIS 50 to the relief efforts.
“I saw him watching the news on TV, and he cries because so many people have died,” she said. “I told him not to worry, your daddy is OK.”
The box in one money transfer store and pawn shop was still empty on Tuesday, but an employee said that they had just put it out a few hours earlier, and since most Filipinos work full days all week long, they don’t expect to start receiving much donations until the weekend.
One employee of a Filipino bank branch a few doors down said that the Federation of Filipino Communities in Israel was planning a Saturday evening fund-raiser event on the floor of the bus station near the cluster of Filipino-owned shops.
The Philippine Embassy estimated that there are around 31,000 Filipinos working and living in Israel, most of them working as caregivers.
The embassy said on Tuesday that it has opened its doors in Tel Aviv to Israelis who would like to come and donate contributions to the relief effort, and that on its website it has posted bank account numbers where people can wire money to those in need.
Evelyn Pritman, the owner of a supermarket selling goods marketed to the Filipino community, said that while she comes from a part of the archipelago far from the storm’s epicenter in Tacloban City, she’d still been glued to the TV for the past few days, watching the scenes of devastation roll by.
“I don’t have any family there, but there are very many [Filipino] workers in Israel who are from there, and they have no idea where their families are or how to reach them,” she said. “They’re very scared and worried; it’s a calamity.”
She added that she’d heard the Philippine Embassy would be bringing by donation boxes in the coming days for her and others to put in the store, but that she hadn’t really seen people organizing donation drives yet.
“Filipino people work all week long; on the weekend, they’ll donate.”