A Syrian refugee now living in Turkey has created a website to acknowledge the help that Israel, and Jews worldwide, have been providing to displaced residents of his native country.
39-year-old Aboud Dandachi, who worked in high-tech before the war, created a website called Thank you Am Israel, which links to stories documenting aid provided by Israel, as well as global Jewish organizations, given to his countrymen during the civil war that has killed over 250,000 and forced millions from their homes.
Dandachi told Ynet on Friday that he grew up being told that “the Jews are evil,” but over the past five years, he has seen that “the Jews are the most humane and generous people of this era. When I see that Hezbollah and the Iranians are coming to kill me and I’m forced from my home by Syrians, and then I hear that Israelis and Jews are helping Syrians, my view of the world changes.”
Dandachi suggested that when the civil war is over, Syria should make peace with Israel, as “there no reason for us to be in a conflict with Israelis.” He praised Israel for “doing exactly what it must do.”
It is not taking part in the war, but is helping wounded Syrians who need help. And it’s not only the government. Israelis are helping Syrian refugees in Jordan, in Greece, Serbia, North America. No one would have blamed the Jews and the Israelis if they had said it was not their problem. That is, by the way, what many Arabs and Arab countries did. The Gulf states, for example, shut their doors to Syrians – and these are the countries that call themselves friends of Syria….
At a time when Donald Trump is defaming us, when Denmark and Switzerland confiscate Syrian refugees’ belongings, when all these countries are against us – we have the Jews who even endanger themselves to help us. So why should I be an enemy of the Jews? They have proven that they want to be my friends. They held out their hand, so why should I turn against them?”
He noted that some of his expressions of gratitude towards Israel were erased from a Syrian opposition website, and that some opposition members objected to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Syrians being treated in Israeli hospitals as “propaganda.” His response to those attitudes was “Are you crazy? You can’t even say thank you?”
To do so, Dandachi created his website last December, because “we as Syrians cannot give back to Jews what they give to us, so we should at least thank them.”
Dandanchi admitted that he didn’t support the Syrian opposition, but had his mind changed after the forces of Iran-backed dictator Bashar al-Assad killed 100 protesters in a single night. He fled the country in September 2013 after Assad used chemical weapons in Damascus and ISIS simultaneously captured the city of Raqqa. He was the last of his family to leave.
Dandanchi explained the motivations behind his website on its “about” page:
It is said that one of the truest moral tests of a society is in how it treats those in need, and who have nothing to offer in return save for gratitude. It is a challenge that this generation of Israelis and Jews have met with exemplary generosity and charity, and it is that generosity that Thank You Am Israel was set up in acknowledgment and appreciation of.
Thank you to the people of Israel and the Jewish people the world over, for showing kindness and charity to Syrians, whether it is through your IDF medical teams, your aid workers in Greece and the Balkans, or your congregations in North America raising money to aid and sponsor Syrian refugees. God bless you and protect you.
In one of his recent posts, Dandanchi referred to a video produced by Vice News that showed the Israeli treatment of wounded Syrians. The video is embedded below.
In Humanitarian Heroes in a Wrathful World, which was published in the November 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Nathan Jeffay described the efforts of the Israel-based nonprofit IsraAID to rescue and rehabilitate Syrian refugees in Greece.
As boat after boat arrives at the Greek island of Lesbos, the refugees aboard are met by a cacophony of languages from aid workers offering help. But there is only one team of aid workers from the Middle East that can talk to these refugees from Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere in their own language. To their surprise, it is the Israeli team.
“It feels like I dreamed it,” said a bemused 26-year-old man from Damascus. “I never thought an Israeli would treat me.” His wife had just received medical help from IsraAID, a humanitarian aid agency that started working on the European refugee crisis in September. It currently has a team in Lesbos and another on the Serbia-Croatia border.
The Israeli team checked his wife, who is nine months pregnant, as she stepped off the boat, and took her to the hospital for emergency treatment. “I wouldn’t have known that she was not okay, and because of them I knew to get her attention,” he said.
Lesbos lies on a stretch of Greek coastline that faces Turkey. And it is from Turkey that the refugee boats are dispatched by cynical human traffickers. They will pack 50 people into a boat meant for 20 and take U.S. $1,700 from each. Then they designate a driver from among the refugees, and take no further interest in whether they survive or sink. Piles of abandoned boats and lifejackets give a sense of just how many thousands of refugees have passed through here in recent weeks.
Two members of the IsraAID team—a nurse and a doctor—are stationed on the shore night and day, and race to meet every boat that arrives. If the weather is bad and the boats stop 10 to 20 meters from shore, they wade out to carry children and help the elderly. If the weather is good, they wait on shore with blankets and food. Then they give IV drips to the dehydrated and treatment to the injured. The refugees are usually relieved to find aid workers who speak Arabic, and bombard them with questions about the Greek bureaucracy’s procedures for refugees.
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