Thursday, May 7, 2020

Israel and coronavirus: No good deed too small in this time of global crisis

LOTEM is finding ways to help kids with special needs stay connected from home by providing laptops and other devices.

By Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York 

From my home in New York City, I ponder our surreal situation across the globe, as nations find themselves in lockdown, battling the coronavirus crisis. As our world faces a global pandemic with catastrophic consequences, human lives are impacted in every way from New York to Tel Aviv. Beyond health, we find ourselves in an economic and societal crisis. Through the implementation of innovative ideas, Israel is finding creative ways to overcome our shared struggles in the age of coronavirus.
Dani Dayan

With the help of Jewish National Fund's relentless outpouring of philanthropic work, Israel, known for the past two decades as the "Start-up Nation," has a new socio-economic identity: "Impact Nation."

This new identity focuses on the ways in which Israel leverages its technological advancements toward improving the world. Striving to make a positive impact on our planet, Israeli organizations both public and private are lending a helping hand. 

A leading example of this can be seen through the efforts of Jewish National Fund-USA's affiliate organizations. For instance, AICAT, the Arava International Center for Agriculture Training, teaches farmers from around the world -- including Cambodia, Kenya, Vietnam and many others -- about high-tech Israeli farming. In these difficult times, a number of Israeli organizations, along with Israeli civilians throughout the country, are responding in innovative ways to both endure the crisis and prepare for the "day after."

"When you find yourself with lemons, make lemonade," they say. In an effort to appeal to US consumers, struggling Israeli small businesses in Israel’s north and south have launched an online marketplace to appeal to US consumers.

LOTEM, an organization that offers activities to individuals with special needs, is helping children who have to stay at home continue to receive therapy and special needs education by providing laptops and other portable devices. The Lauder Center for the Advancement of Employment in the Negev in the Old City of Beersheba, created by Jewish National Fund-USA five years ago to help small businesses in the Negev, has, in recent days, rapidly converted their in-person training seminars to online sessions. 

They've launched a "Preparing for the Day After" online series, which focuses on training for Zoom job interviews. New "personal branding" online training sessions are now also offered by the Lauder Center, which prepares young job seekers in the Negev with tools for today’s new reality, as well as the prospect of a changing workforce in the future as small home-developed companies become the new normal.

As in much of the rest of the world, essential workers in Israel continue doing their jobs to ensure the public remains healthy and safe. Volunteers, at the same time, make a huge difference as essential workers rely on them to be able to do their jobs. In Israel, MAKOM volunteers look after the children of medical workers as they battle coronavirus and Hashomer HaChadash teenagers pick vegetables to ensure produce gets to supermarkets. 

Israel, just barely bigger than New Jersey, prides itself in being a "light unto the nations" in good times and bad. As this virus spreads suffering and darkness throughout our world, sparks of light bring us hope through innovative and philanthropic efforts. Here in New York, college students created Invisible Hands, a service for volunteers to deliver groceries to the elderly. Clothing designers, like New York-based Israeli Alon Hadelsberg, are making masks from their home for hospital employees. No good deed is too small.

Perhaps if nothing else, the outpouring of love and solidarity between our two communities in our mutual hour of need is yet another reminder of our shared values, resilience, and never-ending pursuit of hope. As we plan for the "day after," let us jointly hold the flame of tomorrow in the knowledge that our best days are yet to come.

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