From Oregon to the war zone and back

By Judith Stroman,
Faith Reporter,

Jewish Federation co-chair makes humanitarian visit to southern Israel.

A detailed report of local Oregonian Michael Weiner’s whirlwind 26 hour trip to the war zone in southern Israel, north of Gaza, in January was the subject of a recent article in the Jewish Review. Mr. Weiner is the co-chairman of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s 2009 Annual Campaign. He had been asked by the United Jewish Communities to attend the Leadership Solidarity Mission Meeting on January 11 in Tel Aviv to report on the role the Federation was playing in the ongoing humanitarian needs after personally observing the war zone. He flew home the next day to speak to 700 attendees at the Community Solidarity Gathering at Congregation Beth Israel in Portland.

As Mr. Weiner reflects on his experience, he recalls the Israeli infrastructure as “remarkable” and the method of delivery of social aid as “unreal.” With only a 15 second time span between a red alert and the impact of the rocket and with 20 of these occurring daily, many people and much coordination was required to provide the immediate help that was needed to protect the people who were in harm’s way, especially the children in school, take care of the casualties, repair damaged homes, and have psychiatrists at the Stress Center available around the clock for the survivors needing counseling. One sleep-deprived psychiatrist had seen 30 people in one day. Their job was to convince those experiencing trauma that they were having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, not the reverse.

Mr. Weiner said much of the efficiency of humanitarian aid today is a result of what was learned during the Lebanese war in 2006. One-half of the parents and one-third of the children developed post traumatic stress disorder then and it is expected many more than that are suffering now.

Life in a war zone is unimaginable to most Americans but they have an opportunity to read a first hand account by Mr. Weiner. A detailed report of his experience can be found by going here.

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