Israel Among First To Respond With Humanitarian Aid To Japan Earthquake, Tsunami

Israel Flying Aid in Haiti following the earthquake in January 2010.

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Jerusalem, Israel ---- March 11, 2011 ..... Israel's heart and soul is quickly responding to the massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake that slammed Japan and the awaiting disasters of lethal Tsunami waves now threatening many nations in the Pacific.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasted no time in offering humanitarian aid to the victims of Friday’s earthquake in Japan. The Israel Prime Minister's Office and the Israel Ministry for Foreign Affairs has announced that the first group of Israel humanitarian experts is now preparing to leave for Japan.

“Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a message to the Japanese government, saying that the people of Israel express their deep sorrow over the tragedy in Japan, and that he will work to provide any help that will be required. The Japanese ambassador expressed his gratitude and said that he will convey the message to his government.”

The Pacific earthquake, which was the largest in Japan in over 100 years, hit about 230 miles northeast of Tokyo early Friday morning. Devastating tsunamis with reported waves of over 30 feet followed, wiping out and submerging entire coastal towns. Resulting tsunamis waves have been tracked across the Pacific, with possible damage feared as far away as Hawaii and the US West Coast.


Shachar Zahavi, founder and coordinator of IsraAID, The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, said: “IsraAID/FIRST disaster relief teams, consisting of first responders, search and rescue specialists, logisticians, emergency medical personnel and water specialists, are now preparing to travel from Israel to the region within the next 24 hours.”

IsraAID, is a coordinating organization for 17 Israel and Jewish humanitarian groups, including Israel Flying Aid which worked side by side with the IDF in Haiti, has established a Japan and Pacific Earthquake and Tsunami Emergency Fund to assist victims of this disaster. For more information please be in touch: or 972.54.678.5033 or go to

"Israel officially offered its help an hour after the earthquake struck,” Shinomya said. “It is very heart-warming, but at this point we do not know exactly what the extent of the damage is, so it is difficult for us to say what can be done.”

IsraAid is now checking where the team could fly to a nearby country and then trying to make it to northeast Japan, where the tsunami has killed hundreds and devastated cities and towns.

“We’re in touch with local groups to check the situation in the area,” Zahavi told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “We’re trying to get to the closest airport and then get to the affected area from there.”

Following intensive consultations with the Israel Foreign Ministry and with emissaries from the Chabad organization in Japan, the UN-recognized Israel based ZAKA arranged to send a team headed by the organization's co-directors Mati Goldstein and Dovi Maisel, on Saturday evening (after the conclusion of the Sabbath). A second ZAKA team based in Hong Kong was to leave for the quake area after the conclusion of the Sabbath in their region.

ZAKA’s experts have extensive experience assisting at natural disasters around the world, including Haiti, the tsunami in Thailand and the Katrina hurricane in New Orleans.

The Japan consul in Israel, Mitoshiko Shinomya, told the Israel news Website Ynet that he was heartened by the Israel government's offer of assistance.

"Israel officially offered its help an hour after the earthquake struck,” Shinomya said. “It is very heart-warming, but at this point we do not know exactly what the extent of the damage is, so it is difficult for us to say what can be done.”

Israel, which has dealt with many disasters through wars and terrorism has become a nation of experts in emergency medicine and trauma. Israel also has considerable expertise in clean water management.

Israelis were among the first on the scene to help during the earthquake in Haiti and the Jewish tradition of reaching out to those in need dictates that they would also offer help to people in Japan and elsewhere stricken by this devastating event.


The Jewish Federations of North America is setting up an emergency relief fund to help those in affected areas, a spokesman said, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee opened a mailbox Friday for donations to be used for Japan / Pacific disaster relief. Donations can be made at

"The Jewish Federations send our deepest sympathy to people affected by this terrible event," said Fred Zimmerman, chair of The Jewish Federations of North America’s Emergency Committee. “We are determined to provide emergency relief as quickly as possible and to work with our partners to provide support over the longer term as well.”

"JDC is now conducting an up-to-the-minute assessment of the situation in Japan and the Pacific Rim and has activated its network of partners to determine critical, immediate needs of the hardest-hit areas," the organization said in a statement.

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago has opened an emergency mailbox to provide humanitarian aid to the survivors on the ground.

Funds primarily will be distributed through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), with its 97-year history of providing compassionate, effective emergency relief to the non-Jewish world, and IsraAID, the coordinating body of Israeli charities devoted to global relief work.

“The destructive power of the huge earthquake that slammed Japan is incalculable, but this crisis challenges us who can act to respond,” said American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris. “IsraAID, our partner, often is one of the first non-governmental groups to reach the disaster and provide urgently needed assistance.”

AJC has supported IsraAID: The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid in a number of crises, including Haiti last year, a tropical storm that hit the Philippines in 2009, a devastating earthquake in Peru in 2007, and Sri Lanka after the South Asian tsunami in 2004.

Japan Prime minister Naoto Kan has declared a nuclear emergency as his trade minister admitted that a radiation leak might have occurred at the Fukushima power plant. The reactor’s cooling system failed after the 8.9-magnitude tremor slammed northern Japan at 2.46 pm local time. Pressure in the reactor was rising despite the US Air Force flying extra coolant to the plant.

Some 20 earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater have rocked Japan since today's massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit near Honshu, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). The largest aftershock was a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that struck less than an hour after the main earthquake.


Nearly 100 earthquakes of a magnitude 5 or greater (including the 20 large ones) have also followed the main earthquake in Japan. Each magnitude 5 earthquake is strong enough to knock a chimney down.

As the 500 mph tidal wave trekked across the Pacific, tsunami warnings were issued as far away as Chile. Thousands of people living in parts of Hawaii and California were told to evacuate their beachside homes as a precaution, with the massive tidal waves expected to take 24 hours to subside.

In January 2010, CNN, FOX, BBC and other global media reported that Israel was the first and only state to have sent an advanced field hospital equipped with all that is required for surgical operations to Haiti. Doctors from various international missions sent thousands of patients requiring surgery to Israel's makeshift hospital. Israel Flying Aid and other Israel non-profit organizations stayed in Haiti for several months after the IDF returned to Israel rebuilding orphanages, feeding children and providing them with clean water and electricity.


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