The numbers are staggering. Every time I look at the online newspaper the death count notches up another couple of thousand. Last time I checked, the New York Times reported that more than 20,000 people had died in the massive earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago it’s become almost routine to see pictures of crumbling buildings and plumes of smoke rising from cities. But nothing in Ukraine compares to the absolute devastation that the world has witnessed this past week.
Living in Florida where it is warm at this time of year, I forgot that the bitter winter cold would exacerbate the dire situation. It has, and more people are dying as I write this. The Times ran a headline tonight that reads “No More Antakya: Turks Say Quake Wiped Out a City, and a Civilization.”
Usually after a serious natural or man-made disaster, my email inbox is flooded with requests for financial support. Not so this time. I’ve received only three requests for money, just one of which was from a Jewish charity (HIAS).
I don’t know why the Jewish organizations that continuously pelt me with requests for money to rescue those in need have not stepped forward. Do they not care about the people in Turkey and Syria? Are these human beings not deserving of my assistance? And if not, what does that say about us?
It is well known that Israeli aid workers stand ready to help in disasters around the world, and often are among the first, if not the very first, on the scene. So I was pleased and relieved to read that indeed Israel had immediately offered help and it was accepted.
Judaism teaches that one who saves a single life, it is as though they saved the entire world. I pray that the Israeli rescue workers have been able to save many worlds.
I recently learned that the Chinese ideogram for “crisis” also means “opportunity.” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote of this, “Any civilization that can see the blessing within the curse, the fragment of light within the heart of darkness, has within it the capacity to endure.”
Rabbi Sacks said that the Hebrew language takes this concept a step further than does the Chinese, because the Hebrew word for crisis, mashber, also means a child-birth chair. He wrote, “Written into the semantics of Jewish consciousness is the idea that the pain of hard times is a collective form of the contractions of a woman giving birth. Something new is being born.”
It is clear that something new will have to be born in Turkey and Syria, and it will take many years for the nations to recover psychologically, physically, and spiritually from the intense trauma of the earthquake. May we who live in comfort be blessed to remember that we too can and must play a role, even if it is a small one, in this recovery.
Photo: Israeli rescue workers in Turkey this week.
HIAS is coordinating the Jewish response, I get an ask from them almost daily:
Dear Harriet, You’ve likely seen the devastating news of two back-to-back 7.8 and 7.5-magnitude earthquakes that struck Syria and Turkey just a few days ago. The death toll already stands at a heartbreaking 17,000 — and continues to climb as rescue crews battle time, freezing temperatures, and damaged infrastructure in the race to save lives. *Harriet, refugees and displaced people bearing the worst impacts of the devastation in Turkey and Syria are in critical need of our support. Right now, HIAS is mobilizing to support trusted partners, including Islamic Relief, NATAN, and CADENA working on the ground in both countries. Make a donation today, and HIAS will send your gift directly to them. * https://act.hias.org/page/email/click/10027/1624924?email=qCyADOxKXDOFblipCMDiOFESkN1MQhKC&campid=BpuPZAxHEyqZkArzVWMSmA== https://act.hias.org/page/email/click/10027/1624925?email=qCyADOxKXDOFblipCMDiOFESkN1MQhKC&campid=BpuPZAxHEyqZkArzVWMSmA==
https://act.hias.org/page/email/click/10027/1624926?email=qCyADOxKXDOFblipCMDiOFESkN1MQhKC&campid=BpuPZAxHEyqZkArzVWMSmA== The loss of life and misery is horrific — and, as is too often the case, many of the people who have been impacted were already suffering after being forcibly displaced from their homes. Please, give now to support a HIAS partner-led relief effort. https://act.hias.org/page/email/click/10027/1624927?email=qCyADOxKXDOFblipCMDiOFESkN1MQhKC&campid=BpuPZAxHEyqZkArzVWMSmA== Many of the impacted areas in Turkey and Syria are home to millions of refugees who have fled a decade-long civil war. Gaziantep, a major city near the quake’s epicenter, is home to nearly half a million Syrians and is a hub for getting international aid into Syria. Hatay and Sanliurfa each host around 430,000, many of whom live in temporary housing. https://act.hias.org/page/email/click/10027/1624928?email=qCyADOxKXDOFblipCMDiOFESkN1MQhKC&campid=BpuPZAxHEyqZkArzVWMSmA== As Jews and as Americans, we have a deep commitment to responding to suffering and ensuring that our response includes those who live on the margins — the forgotten, the stranger, the refugee. Please join with HIAS as we mobilize to support partners including Islamic Relief, NATAN, and CADENA, that are directly supporting refugees and others in need of relief in Syria and Turkey. Make an urgent donation today, and HIAS will send it to our trusted humanitarian partners. https://act.hias.org/page/email/click/10027/1624929?email=qCyADOxKXDOFblipCMDiOFESkN1MQhKC&campid=BpuPZAxHEyqZkArzVWMSmA== Thank you for your support — and please stay tuned — in the coming days and weeks, we will provide updates with details on the partner organizations, and offer a glimpse into their efforts as they work to help affected communities recover from this tragedy. Thank you, James Orlando Senior Director, Humanitarian & Emergency Programs
SRQ Jew said:
I deeply admire HIAS and love supporting them. Usually however I also get requests for support from an array of Jewish organizations, including Federation. Not so this time.