Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Teves 5765 - January 5, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











South Africa Jewish Community Helps in SE Asia

by D Saks

The South African Jewish community has been at the forefront of relief efforts to assist South African holiday makers stranded in the South East Asia region following the tsunami disaster that has to date claimed well over 150,000 lives. A high proportion of the more than 2000 South Africans caught up in global catastrophe were members of the Jewish community. Tragically, these included two of those since confirmed dead, and hopes that two other South African Jews, who have been listed amongst the missing, will be found alive are fast fading.

Jewish survivors spoke about the tremendous trauma of being caught up in a global catastrophe and, in some cases, of the incredible siyata deShmaya that had enabled them to survive. One man related how he had briefly left his ground floor hotel room only a short while before the tidal wave struck. When he returned, he found he had lost everything except his tefillin, which he discovered — perfectly dry — on top of a cupboard.

Through the efforts of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), working in close cooperation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Netcare 911, a special mercy flight was organized to Phuket International Airport. A number of volunteer Jewish doctors took part in the mission to render medical assistance where necessary. Also in Phuket — one of the islands worst affected — and surrounding regions, were members of the Community Security Organization (CSO), a Jewish defense organization that operates under the auspices of the SAJBD. Working in close cooperation with the local authorities, these helped search for South Africans, making thorough records of all those in hospitals, while its medical wing, Ezra, assisted those who had sustained injuries. 68 people, the majority of them injured, were ultimately brought back to South Africa in the plane, seventeen of whom were Jews.

Also on board were the mortal remains of four South African who perished. The latter included Morris Isaacson, who had been a prominent member of the Jewish community in Cape Town. Shortly after this, the body of a second Jewish victim, Paul Sender of Johannesburg, was discovered.

Back in South Africa, the SAJBD and CSO set up a 24-hour call center, and in the days following the disaster staff members worked around the clock to assist those anxiously seeking information about their loved ones. The SAJBD also opened an account for the collection of money for relief and aid to the South East Asia region. All funds collected will be handed over to the Department of Foreign Affairs.


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