Israeli NGO Secretly Providing Humanitarian Aid to War-Torn Syria
An Israeli nonprofit has been secretly transferring humanitarian supplies to the Syrian populace devastated by the civil war, Israel21c reported on Friday.
Doreen Gold’s Il4Syrians has been operating since 2011, and provides local NGOs with goods that they then pass on to needy Syrians. The volunteer organization has sent sanitation kits, baby powder, food and medical supplies and devices, including 3,000 protective suits for doctors treating victims of chemical attacks.
Il4Syrians supports 17 field hospitals and operating rooms, all led by Syrian NGOs, by keeping them stocked with everything from sterilization equipment to anesthetics. It also trained 22 orthopedists to create prosthetic limbs with 3D printers, which it also provided.
Convoys from the non-profit enter Syria every month or three, depending on funding.
“We were probably the first international NGO operating in the area,” Gold, a mother-of-two, told Israel21c. “At that point people didn’t realize how deadly the conflict was. They still called it demonstrations, not a revolution, but we had already figured out that the number of casualties was enormous.”
Gold, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, signed a form that says that if she is captured, the Israeli government will not negotiate for her release, according to Israel21c. Before leaving on a mission, all of her volunteers, some 200 of whom are undercover Israelis fluent in Arabic, are required to sign the same form.
“Missions are short and pinpointed,” said Gold, who added that even her own mother did not know about the work she was doing until a few years ago. She admitted that it involves danger. “It’s always frightening,” she said. “We know we are on our own. We have to work where we are needed, and not just where we’re allowed. Being a mother made everything stronger for me because I realize that mothers will do anything to save their children.”
As part of their work, the volunteers train and equip Syrian aides in firefighting and search-and-rescue missions, particularly to help people trapped under rubble after bombings. Gold said, “We discovered that most victims suffer smoke inhalation or burns because bombings trigger explosions in the gas-cooking systems. It means there’s a serious need for firefighters there.”
Il4Syrians has already helped hundreds of thousands of Syrians, according to Israel21c. Even with the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, which went into effect on Saturday night, the nonprofit said it will continue its work while the country tries to get back on its feet — particularly since radicals, such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, not only have a stronghold in country, but said they would not honor the ceasefire.
Gold said the worst part of it all is seeing what’s happening to the people of Syria struggling through the chaos. “At the start, they were anxious to create a change; now you just see despair in their eyes. They have lost hope,” she said.
Gold said her organization has to constantly buy equipment for the same clinics and hospitals that are deliberately and repeatedly bombed. She recalled one incident in which Il4Syrians restocked a clinic after a strike, only to find out later that a doctor had absconded to Turkey with its equipment, in order to open a private clinic there.
“I’m not angry with him,” Gold said. “It’s caused by the desperation of the situation.”
When asked about the amount of work her organization does, she told Israel21c, “It’s always been too much, even from the beginning.”
“But being survivors of the Holocaust, I feel we have a moral [imperative] to be the voice of voiceless people,” she said. “I don’t need thanks. Recognition is unimportant. I just do the mission and deliver what we have to deliver.
“I always say to my volunteers before they carry out a mission, ‘I’ll do my best to bring you home safely, but one thing I won’t take responsibility for is the type of person you’ll be when you get back.’ After seeing this disaster you are transformed. You cannot stay the same. The only thing that helps is planning the next mission.”
In the last few months, Il4Syrians has began offering long-term aid to Syrian refugees in Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Bulgaria. The non-profit, along with one of the largest Syrian NGOs with which Gold works, is now trying to launch discussions between Israel and civil leaders in Syria.