Wednesday, January 17, 2024

How Operation Good Neighbor Directed Israeli Aid to Syrians in Need

 In the wake of the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests, Syrian cities witnessed widespread opposition to the leadership of President Bashar Assad. The conflict caused displacement and a crisis that led the Israel Defense Forces to establish Operation Good Neighbor. 

In March 2011, Assad responded to the demonstrations by ordering soldiers to fire live ammunition at the crowds, causing numerous casualties and instigating a civil war. In the decade following, a large-scale displacement and refugee crisis emerged as arial and tank bombardment destroyed entire neighborhoods. Civilians suffered hundreds of thousands of deaths, and millions of Syrians became displaced.

Situated in a high valley of the Golan Heights, near the Israeli border, Quneitra emerged as a stronghold of local opposition to the Assad regime. Cut off from medical care and food supplies, those living in the area endured life in tents across open fields under harsh natural elements.

In 2013, a Syrian civilian who had sustained injuries approached soldiers at the Syria-Israel border, seeking medical assistance from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). At that time, lacking any policy directive, the commander at the post made an executive decision to provide the injured civilians with humanitarian care. From that moment on, the IDF Northern Command provided similar aid nearly every day. In June 2016, the IDF formally established Operation Good Neighbor.

The first aid operation directed from the new headquarters occurred in August 2016. Within four years, it carried out over 100 operations. The operations spanned three primary missions: the delivery of medical supplies and equipment across the border to civilians in need, the transportation of Syrians requiring critical medical care to facilities in Israel, and the establishment of a field hospital in the border area. In addition, the IDF oversaw the construction of two clinics near Quneitra. Its operations became a collaborative effort between locals and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The field clinic, Camp Ichay, provided treatment for everyday medical issues. Operations also focused on transporting fuel, water, generators, and aid packages that included infant nutrition, warm clothes, shoes, and flour for bakeries.

Aid reached almost 400 families residing in tents along the Israel-Syria border and was distributed among 200,000 residents across southwestern Syria’s Hauran region. With one-third of aid recipients characterized as displaced, 50 percent were under 18. In the first four years of operations, 600 Syrian children, accompanied by mothers, traveled to Israel for critical care.

In 2017, the Chief Medical Officer of the Northern Command, Col. Dr. Noam Fink, described the operations as “one of the most significant efforts to treat those in need that I have ever witnessed.” In return, one of the aid recipients cared for in an Israeli hospital wrote, “To any Syrians that think that Israel is our enemy – you are wrong.”

The grassroots communications and the funds and relief supplies contributed by ordinary Israelis underscored the remarkable effectiveness of Operation Good Neighbor in improving relations between the two countries. The Israeli government had long characterized Syria as an “enemy of the state,” while the Syrian government painted Jewish people as mortal enemies. As IDF reserve Lieutenant Colonel Eyal Dror, a fluent Arabic speaker, described it, “For years, Syrians were educated and brainwashed to hate the State of Israel, even though they did not know us. For us and for Syria, this was something very new, and for Syrians, this wasn’t easy.”

Before Operation Good Neighbor ended in September 2018, due to heightened security concerns, IDF members undertook a risky mission that rescued civil defense group members known as White Helmets. The civil defense group consisted of medical and emergency personnel deemed traitors by the Assad regime. They were in grave danger when Assad reclaimed control over territory in the Hauran region.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

What Does Frontier Alliance International Do?

 Frontier Alliance International (FAI) is a Christian organization formed nearly ten years ago in the wake of the tragic Syrian civil war. Guided by the principles of the Gospel and a profound connection with God, FAI is committed to delivering medical assistance, aiding in reconstruction efforts, and offering life-saving help in conflict-ridden regions. Their mission revolves around preserving humanitarian principles in demanding situations where individuals may encounter formidable challenges.

FAI has several initiatives in place to help manage crises in the crisis zones. One of these initiatives is the counter-trafficking initiative. This initiative targets cultures where the exploitation of women is condoned and even supported by religious leaders. They concentrate on rescuing and rehabilitating victims of sexual slavery while working to prevent such situations from happening in the first place.

They also assist people in areas affected by conflict and war. FAI plays a pivotal role, utilizing methods like humanitarian corridors and coordinated strategies to address the needs of vulnerable communities in these environments. They are instrumental in providing vital services such as food, medical assistance, and shelter. Furthermore, they help bring conflicting parties to agreements, creating corridors that help secure the safe passage of aid and humanitarian workers without putting them at direct risk from the ongoing conflict. A well-organized strategy for humanitarian relief is vital to ensure the swift and efficient delivery of aid to areas affected by war.

Additionally, FAI has a film series called "Covenant and Controversy". The series delves into the intricate relationship between Jewish culture and Christianity. It explores the historical contexts of anti-Semitism, questioning whether the church's biases contributed to tragic events like Auschwitz. The series also focuses on Jerusalem, a city historically burdened by conflicting ambitions. The controversy surrounding the city, marked by sin, war, and blasphemy, is intricately tied to Jesus Christ and its role as the City of the Great King. It traces the trajectory of Jewish persecution and triumph, spanning from the tragedy of Masada in the 1st century to the WWII rescue by Bulgarians. This historical narrative, linked to a prophesied era of peace, emphasizes the unity of Jewish messengers and the world's journey through a final tribulation toward lasting redemption.

The series, based on Jeremiah 31, anticipates a future where those who have received salvation from the sword will also be met with grace in the wilderness. The last two films in this comprehensive series are yet to be released.

FAI is dedicated to building the foundation for the Gospel in areas where it is absent, elevating the message of Jesus among those who have not been reached or engaged as we approach the apex of time. Since its inception in 2011, FAI teams have been actively establishing the groundwork in key areas. They collaborate in a focused and coordinated effort to penetrate the inner regions of our time where there is currently no religious presence.

FAI also has an initiative called 'Emmaus Online.' It is a nine-month training program offered by the Emmaus Institute of Israel and Middle East Studies. This program is open to individuals passionate about making a difference, providing comprehensive education on leadership and proactive engagement in a rapidly changing geopolitical landscape. For those seeking a shorter option, there's the Emmaus Intensive. It is a six-week course that imparts essential "leadership literacies" while offering a contextual understanding of the region's political, historical, theological, and religious dynamics amid continuous flux.