While much of the discourse in conventional and social media on the UN Security Council Resolution 2334 has been about whether it was an unwarranted attack on Israel’s right to exist or a much needed rebuff of Israel’s settlement policy, Ambassador Samantha Power’s moving words on the lack of Security Council resolve and action in places like South Sudan and Syria were what echoed in my ear:
Earlier this month, this Council could not muster the will to adopt the simplest of resolutions calling for a seven-day pause in the savage bombardment of innocent civilians, hospitals, and schools in Aleppo.
How many times since World War II has the cry, “Never Again”, become just an empty phrase? The world stands by as thousands of men, women and children are slaughtered in Syria. The current Russian brokered ceasefire is, without a doubt, a much needed respite but how long will it hold, and if it does, what does it portend for the Middle East? Will Pax Russia really bring safety and stability to the Middle East? Will it prevent the next bloodbath?
Despite the historical animosity between Israel and Syria and the tension between Syria and its other neighbors, it is difficult to stand by and watch as your neighbors suffer. Recently, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that Israel would care for victims of the civil war from Aleppo. Though for some time Israel has cared for wounded Syrians who came to the Israeli line in the Golan Heights, this is the first time the Prime Minister has openly declared Israel’s willingness to transfer wounded Syrians from the heart of the conflict to Israeli hospitals. In a sense, this is a small act of human kindness, but one that I believe will resonate around the world.
The Arava Institute’s mission is to advance cross-border environmental cooperation in the face of political conflict, but when our alumni leave the Institute, their desire to make the world a better place is not always limited to environmental issues. For some, the Syrian refugee crisis has become a major focus of their efforts.
The following are a few brief posts from Arava Institute alumni who are working to ease the suffering of some Syrian refugees:
- REVI is an independent group of volunteers, who organize the activities for the volunteers and the families we help. REVI has two kindergartens at the momentwith more than 100 children attending. We hired 4 Syrian teachers to take care of the kids and teach them Arabic. The volunteers do a lot of activities with the kids.
- KAPILAR (Doors in Turkish) is a community center in the middle of the Basmane Neighborhood. We renovated an old building and started the center. The space became a hub for initiatives in the city and displaced people living in the city (mostly Syrians). We run many different activities with both the kids and the adults.
- MEDVINT: In the last 6 month, I became more involved with a medical group which provides medical assistance to refugees in the camp. Through Medvint, I am trying to start a new project in the camp, to build more safe, clean and hygienic toilets.
These are some of our alumni making a difference in the face of this major humanitarian crisis. Their commitment and hard work gives us hope.
We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Elie Wiesel