Relay of Goodness: How and why do Israeli volunteers help Ukraine?
“Israeli Friends of Ukraine, thanks to your help, the children of fallen Ukrainian soldiers and orphans received at the beginning of the school year 196 kilograms of gifts, stationery and children’s items that are always needed,” Victoria Pasternachenko, a volunteer at the Odessa Military Hospital, recently wrote on her Facebook page.
Vyacheslav Feldman, co-chairman of the non-profit organization Israeli Friends of Ukraine, told the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter: “Within the framework of our project “Relay of Goodness”, we send goods depending on where our friends are flying to at the nearest moment, as well as to those cities where help is mostly needed. Before that, we sort and pack all items at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Bat Yam, which provides us with a room for these purposes.”
According to Feldman, funds for these activities are donated by Israeli citizens and also collected at charity events like Ethno-Khutir, a Ukrainian festival held annually in Tel Aviv with the support of the UJE.
Feldman stressed that Ukrainian International Airlines (UIA) provides great assistance to these volunteer projects. “In addition to transporting our goods, they give free tickets to Ukrainian doctors for internships in Israel as part of our Medical Bridge program, and also help people who fly to Israel for treatment. I especially want to thank UIA managers Andriy Rudenko, Tetyana Kisel, Yevhenia Satskaya and Olena Bidyuk. And we also know that Aron Maiberg, the owner of UIA, personally supports humanitarian cooperation with our organization”, Feldman said.
Feldman explains what motivates those Israelis helping Ukraine: “Someone cannot stand by and remain indifferent; his friends are there. Many cannot stand aside because of injustice, seeing aggression against Ukraine. Therefore, humanitarian aid is the most elementary thing these people can give. People don’t always give money – sometimes it is time and things.”
Organizing such assistance itself allowed the core of pro-Ukrainian activists in Israel to unite. Now several hundred people take part in this project.
Since the beginning of 2018, Israeli volunteers have sent 80 large boxes with a total weight of 1,840 kilograms to orphanages and hospitals in Ukraine. Since “Relay of Goodness” began in 2014, 834 boxes with a total weight of almost 20 tons have been shipped from Israel to Ukraine.
Text: Shimon Briman (Israel).
Photo: Israeli Friends of Ukraine.