During the Second Lebanon War, Russian billionaire Arcady Gaydamak set a new precedent of philanthropic emergency support. After appearing on the scene, he built tent cities for some of Israel’s most vulnerable citizens – without waiting for the green light from either the government or the organized Jewish world.
With the threat of war in Israel once again looming on the horizon – or, just as likely, according to experts, a natural disaster such as an earthquake – voices from Jewish philanthropies are calling for a pre-orchestrated, strategic plan to prepare to meet Israel’s needs – before disaster strikes.
“Right now we’re heading into really uncertain times, but the one thing that is certain is that Israel may be confronted with a war and when we are under attack is the worst time for philanthropies to figure out what to do,” said David Gappell, Director of the Schusterman Foundation-Israel.
That is why individual funders, foundations and philanthropic organizations must take stock of the lessons learned from past wars in Israel and, under the guidance of the Israeli Government, figure out an effective and efficient game plan in the calm before the storm, according to Gappell.
By all accounts, the Second Lebanon War was a wake-up call for both Israel and the world Jewish community. Stymied by disorganization and red tape, the Israeli Government and its ancillaries, the federated and organized world, lagged behind and failed to respond effectively to citizens’ needs. As a result, private foundations received spotty and sometimes conflicting information, which hindered their ability to offer support.
“During the Lebanon War in 2006, the government wasn’t organized and neither was the third sector and as a result, Israeli paid a high price,” said the director of a major philanthropic organization with an office in Israel.
Not surprisingly, the setting was ripe for wealthy individuals, like Gaydamak, to take matters into their own hands. The only problem was this Rambo-like approach angered the government while exposing its weaknesses, according to key players in the philanthropic world. It also set an unhealthy precedent of working outside of the government.
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