Israeli Arabs also receive assistance

Hannah Shaltah is 27, blind and an Arab Israeli.

As a part-time employee of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, she is also a beneficiary of the Israel Emergency Fund.

The IEC was established to help all Israelis, Jews and non-Jews alike, who live in the area impacted by last year’s Lebanon war. And JDC’s aim is to aid people in the weakest sector of Israel’s economy.

Shaltah runs the Supportive Community of the Disabled in the Arab town of Sakhnin.

In the 100 households she serves, they call her “mother.” She continually visits the homes of her “family” members to see how they are managing.

It’s all part of the social work she does, which also includes acting as a go-between for disabled people who need help from the authorities. She plans group outings to lectures and plays. And she makes sure that emergency buzzers are available to them just in case they need help.

She’s heard American Jewish visitors question why their federation gifts should go to Arabs.

Her answer, translated from Hebrew, is, “You have to help all people who are in need. If you are talking about building bridges between Arabs and Jews, this is one way to do it.”

She added that Arab-Jewish strains are irrelevant here. “You’re talking about human needs,” she said. “It bothers me when people talk badly about Arabs.

“I’m sure it’s the same for you as Jews.”

She noted that half the residents of the Galilee are Arabs. And she knows that some of them also question why she takes money from Jews.

Her answer to them is simple: A Jewish organization came to her aid, and that of her organization.

“I doubt whether an Arab organization would have done the same,” she said.

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