Israel at work in the South Pacific

March 28, 2013 by J-Wire Staff
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Israel is coordinating efforts by philanthropists and NGOs to improve life for the inhabitants of many South Seas islanders.

Israel helps

Israel helps

With a growing number of aid related collaborations, Israel is ultimately working toward an initiative that sees the dispatch of Australian and Israeli specialist medical teams in the region, administering their services to those in need, while providing training to local physicians.

Throughout March, aid shipments containing sporting equipment, diabetes monitoring kits and school equipment for children are among items being delivered to Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Palau and the Solomon Islands.

For many of these nations, diabetes kit deliveries have become a regular calendar event, thanks to the work of Melbourne-based Ron Raab, President of Insulin for Life Australia and past Vice-President of the International Diabetes Federation, who has been a longtime supporter of efforts to curb the growing epidemic of diabetes in the region.

‘Diabetes is a major problem in the Pacific, with high complications and death rates, which are largely preventable’, said Raab.

Insulin for Life has sent supplies to over 80 countries and is currently active in 30. It operates by providing ongoing sustainable programs to those in need, while also providing rapid assistance following natural disasters.

Israel-based crisis response group Magen David Adom (MDA) has donated hundreds of ‘return to school’ packs to kindergarten students in the Solomon Islands in response to the earthquake and tsunami that struck the island nation in February.

Leliana Firisua, Israel’s honorary consul in Honiara passed on the supplies from MDA to underprivileged children from fishing villages in East Honiara.

‘The children were so happy and excited to receive the gifts’, said Firisua. ‘Pass on our thanks to those who have the heart in donating the items to the Solomon Islands’.

The Embassy of Israel in Canberra played a leading and integral role in facilitating each of the donations, coordinating their transfer to appropriate partners in the Pacific.
These projects have emerged as a by-product of years spent developing strong bilateral relations with Pacific nations, alongside partnerships nurtured with Jewish organisations in Australia.

Ambassador Michael Ronen, Director of the Pacific Department in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and non-resident Ambassador to most of the Pacific nations, and Yuval Rotem, Israel’s Ambassador to Australia and non-resident Ambassador to Fiji and Papua New Guinea have both played a central role in opening development-focused dialogue with leaders in the Pacific.

Efforts in the region have been amplified further by Israel’s recently established Pacific Affairs Department, operating out of the embassy in Canberra.

As part of enduring relationship-building efforts, recently-appointed Regional Counselor to the Pacific Islands Jonathan Zadka visited Vanuatu in February. While In Port Villa, Zadka presented Steven Kalsakau, Minister for Education, Youth and Sport with a pallet of sports equipment and children’s school books…a project coordinated together with Kevin Milstein, President of Maccabi Victoria and the Reagan Milstein Foundation.

‘Most important for us is to see the smiles we help put on children’s faces when they get a pair of football boots, or a ball, or a story book that they never dreamed of having before,’ said Milstein. ‘It’s through cooperation like this, that we can improve the lives of people in the Pacific islands – one ball at a time!’

These recent shipments represent a small element of Israel’s growing aid-focused engagement with the Pacific region. The Vanuatu delivery was held in conjunction with formal talks focused on expanding Israeli assistance to the island nation in the fields of science, technology, health and agriculture.

Yuval Rotem, Israel’s Ambassador to Australia stated, “Israel is a small and dry nation that has, over the years, discovered ways to generate fresh water sources and make the desert bloom. I think we identify very closely with the island nations in terms of size and resource limitations, which is why we welcome this collaboration that supports responsible, sustainable development.”

A professional exchange program is in the planning stage, which will enable islander students to receive specialized training in Israel, and will see Israeli experts visiting Pacific nations to provide training on relevant topics.

‘It is a blessing to extend our hand in partnership to help facilitate the Jewish principle of tikkun olam (repairing the world) in the Pacific. It is a privilege to be part of so many projects that possess the capacity to elevate the standard of living in the region’, said Ambassador Rotem.


One Response to “Israel at work in the South Pacific”
  1. Shirlee says:

    This is really good news.

    People of the Solomon and other Islander nations are very devout Christians and by extension very pro-Israel. I’ve been in discussion on a number of occasions on blogs etc with them and they are thirsty for knowledge of Israel. I have even been asked if I could arrange for people to go to teach them.

    I was asked by someone in Israel if I would go with him . Trouble was I would have had to pay my own way,

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