Jewish and Arab Israelis team up to help refugees in Greece

Jewish and Arab twenty-somethings from Israel will establish a new aid centre for Syrian refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos next week, and run it together for at least four months.

Ten graduates of the Jewish Hashomer Hatzair youth movement and the Arab Ajyal organisation will be running educational classes for youngsters, as well as offering psycho-social support for all ages and flying in dentists from Israel and diaspora Jewish communities to care for refugees’ teeth.

They are volunteering through the Tel Aviv-based humanitarian assistance organisation Natan, which says that aid teams with Arabic speakers are especially effective. “It makes all the difference, and allows you not only to communicate but also to build the confidence of refugees,” said Natan’s chairman Daniel Kahn.

Israeli organisations carry out a range of activities to help refugees around the world, including putting on buses to bring the wounded to Israeli hospitals, fundraising, distributing clothes and even setting up prayer gatherings. Dental provision has not been a focus until now, but Mr Kahn said there was a need for this.

“Nobody really takes care of dental health but it’s become quite a problem for refugees who are coming from war-torn areas where they haven’t been seeing dentists and then spending months on travelling without treatment,” he said. The international Jewish dental fraternity Alpha Omega is supporting this side of the Greece operation, and will be sending members to Lesbos for short stints.

Other backers for the new aid centre include Mexico’s Jewish community, and IsraAid is partnering with the Swiss aid organisation Schwizerchrüz. “We want to improve the daily lives of refugees and restore hope,” Mr Kahn said.

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