World Humanitarian Day – August 19, 2019 -  Honoring Women Humanitarians


"From supporting civilians caught up in crisis to addressing disease outbreaks, women humanitarians are on the front lines."  — UN Secretary-General, António Guterres

NATAN honors all humanitarians, men and women, everywhere, as they put their comfort and safety aside and fly off to respond to crises all over the world. One of those dedicated professionals is our own Dr. Sharon Shaul, who leads NATAN’s medical relief activities. Sharon has devoted her life and career to helping others, both in Israel and abroad. At home, Sharon is an MD specializing in emergency medicine at a busy hospital in northern Israel. And since 2010, Sharon has led medical relief teams responding to some of the world’s worst natural or man-made disasters. These include the devasting earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal, Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, responding to the Syrian refugee crisis, monsoon flooding in India, and most recently, in Mozambique following Cyclone Idai.   Sharon is the mother of five, living in a small village in the north of the country.  Despite family and career obligations at home, Sharon is usually the first to volunteer when news of a disaster hits. In her words, “You hear about these terrible events on the news, but the feeling that you can actually do something to help - even if it's very small, makes you want to do whatever you can. And arriving so soon after a disaster, when there is still chaos and thousands of people whose lives are at risk if they don’t receive basic primary healthcare, makes you feel that even if you are only there for a short period you are really making a difference.”  In the recent aid operation in Mozambique, Sharon and the NATAN team flew by helicopter to remote locations, setting down wherever they saw crowds of people awaiting help. The team set up improvised primary care stations – with no more equipment than whatever they had brought with them in their emergency response kits. These were quite literally field clinics, as most of them were outside in open fields, since the buildings in the villages had been destroyed by the flooding following Cyclone Idai. Sharon and the team carried out initial medical assessments and provided first aid. In many cases, our teams were the first medical responders to arrive, as many of the remote locations were inaccessible by land, with roads washed out by the floods. For Sharon, humanitarian work is a calling, whether treating catastrophic wounds or the water-borne diseases which accompany natural disasters or tending to the medical needs of Syrian refugees at makeshift migrant camps. Sharon’s dedication mirrors that of aid workers around the world. We salute you, Sharon, along with your fellow humanitarians across the globe, today and every day. Happy World Humanitarian Day!  #WomenHumanitarians

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Our Volunteers Speak

Tal Shami, Social Worker: Trauma and Resilience Aid and Training - Mozambique Operation April 2019

Tal’s thoughts during her service in Mozambique: I’ve been here, in Beira, Mozambique, nearly 3 weeks. A month has passed since cyclone Idai hit and we still see the destruction everywhere. People were left with nothing. People lost family members, villages lost all their crops, dirty water and destruction.

But along with all the destruction and hardship, I see hope and strong people determined to return to their lives after this disaster. And there are times of relief and laughter like the time the rain caught us in one of the villages and children ran up to me calling me to join them under a piece of tin roofing for shelter.

Invisible Armor:   A friend asked me how I do it: How do I cope, listening to the terrible stories of loss and destruction every day; meeting a mother or father who have lost everything; a man who has not eaten for days… I realized that I wear invisible armor, as one must, in order to go on, in order to function without breaking down. And then one day I meet someone who pierces that armor. Philip is a 3-year-old boy we met the camp. At first, he said nothing. He came near, silently, standing nearby, watching and saying nothing. Gradually he began to arrive daily. Then one day he told us his name: Philip. He began to speak. One day we walked side by side and I took his hand. I picked him up and hugged him and he hugged back and held on tight. The hug of this little man managed to penetrate the invisible armor I was wearing. I knew I would have to wear the armor again in order to do my work, but for a time I was unshielded and open, exposed to all the feelings, all the difficult stories, the hungry people, the destruction and the uncertainty of the people. On the way back from the camp I understood that I had to keep my invisible armor. And what helps maintain the armor is what we see around us: A man who says at the end of a group session that he draws strength from the stories of the others; or someone who says that of all the help they were given in the camp, these sessions are the most meaningful; women who sing at the end of a group conversation, smile and gratitude. All this helps the armor stay and so that we can continue to do our work. And Philip? He just wanted a hug. A small boy with an orange shirt, a winning smile and a hug that says that he just wants someone to hug him and not leave.

Tal’s inspiration: “I will be a hummingbird.”  When I was at the university studying social work, I saw this video clip -- the story of the hummingbird told by Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. I decided then that I would be a hummingbird, doing the best I can, little by little, to help where I can. When I ask myself, why bother to go so far, to do all this difficult work, if it will only be like a drop in the sea? Then I think of the hummingbird and I know that even a small change is worthwhile.

Mozambique Cyclone Relief - March-May 2019

Every mission begins with a decision to take action. NATAN’s leadership met at HQ shortly after we got news of the devastating cyclone which hit Mozambique mid-March. Here’s how our mission began, in photos and video:

  1. NATAN leadership held an emergency meeting at HQ in Tel Aviv. Chairperson Danny Kahn introduced the issues, followed by a briefing on the cyclone and the floods which followed - destroying farmland and bringing disease. NATAN decided unanimously to take action.

  2. NATAN medical relief team members check out the contents of our ‘Go-Bags’ - EMI Emergency Response Intervention kits - to make sure they contain only fresh medicines and supplies, all intact, per international regulations.

  3. At the airport: the first team left within 2 days of that initial meeting. Seen here: Dr Tal Hanani, MD- Head of Mission. Tal is an MD, experienced in disaster relief and WASH and a lecturer at the Israeli School of Humanitarian Action. Dr Sharon Shaul, MD- Sharon is a family doctor, who has led medical aid teams around the world. Sharon's been deployed with NATAN in almost all our relief operations in the last 10 years. Dr Eitan Shachar- Eitan is a social worker, head of the Ofakim welfare service and a professor at the Sapir Academic College. Eitan heads NATAN's psychosocial relief, Oded Gal - Oded is a paramedic and a logistics expert. He has participated in more than 30 field operations around the world.

  4. Excess Baggage Dilemma: Too many bags. These bags are filled with valuable medicines and supplies, critical to the life-saving relief operation following Cyclone Idai in Mozambique. But according to airline regs, there's just one too many...

  5. After a quick trip to the cashier's window to pay for the extra bag, the luggage is finally tagged and sent on its way.

    We spoke to team members just before boarding the plane. In Eitan's words: "There are so many unknowns. Though we've done our best to get ready, we don't know what will happen. It's all about preparedness so that we can do good: We'll do the best we know how to do in order to help, however we can."


Here is a concise summary of NATAN’s achievements this past year.
There were, unfortunately, no fewer natural disasters in 2018 around the world than in the previous years but the media fatigue considerably reduced awareness in the West. The tragedy of the Syrian population continued to be a central topic. When the School for Refugees in Lesbos (Greece), created by NATAN, reached maturity, we transferred project responsibility to our partners in Hashomer Hatzair and focused on another aspect of the Syrian war casualties: medical aid to the civilians in Syria. Participating in the Israeli program, “Operation Good Neighbor”, with doctors and dentists crossing the Israeli border, our volunteers helped in Camp Ichay in Syria. We also created and operated a TeleMedicine program, connecting Syrian patients with doctors in Israel. The monsoon floods in Kerala, India called us to help in rehabilitation in the rural zones. NATAN is partnering with the leading organizations representing Israeli Jews of Indian origin, expressing their solidarity with their country of origin. We are currently awaiting the formal approval of our project proposal by the Indian central government which will enable us to implement a reconstruction project in Kannadi village in Kutannad. Dental Care is a new initiative, responding to our beneficiaries’ call. We have completed the acquisition of the top of the line mobile equipment, able to deploy the best dental technology anywhere there is a need. The first project will be in the rural zones in Ethiopia. Simultaneously we are opening a dental clinic for the neediest in Haifa, in partnership with the Technion. Building the future, NATAN is creating a Social Impact Mentoring program, helping entrepreneurs to adapt and implement their initiatives to emergency zones and developing countries.
2019 will be challenging but with your help NATAN will continue to fulfill its mission, doing good on behalf of Israel and the Jewish People.


Since November 2015 NATAN has offered humanitarian aid to many thousands of refugees in Serbia and Greece. This past year, we were able to help Syrian civilians – internal displace persons inside Syria itself on the Golan Heights. We were asked to join the American organization, Friendships, at their medical camp in Camp Ichay on the Golan Heights, providing medical and dental care to Syrian civilians. NATAN recruited and trained international doctors and dentists who served as volunteers at the medical camp. This operation was part of the IDF’s Operation Good Neighbor. At a ceremony marking the close of the operation, NATAN received a commendation for its contribution to this program. Our creation of a Telemedicine service allowed Syrian patients to consult online with Israeli MDs and specialists. The program was forced to end when the IDF closed the medical camp for security reasons as Bashar Assad’s forces took control of the area. NATAN’s Telemedicine program was also featured in an international conference on rural medicine held recently.


In August 2018 the region of Kerala, in the South of India suffered  the worst flooding in over a century. The opening of dams during heavy monsoon rains caused the deaths of more than 500 people, destroyed local agriculture, infrastructure and homes. One community has come together and decided to take action and provide humanitarian aid: the Israelis of Indian origin. Having arrived in Israel in the early 1950s, the community currently numbers 80,000 people, out of a total of 120,000 Jews of Indian origin around the world, including 4,500 in India. It is apparently the first time that an Israeli minority has actively mobilized and committed its resources to philanthropic action on behalf of its country of origin. NATAN was designated to bring its expertise in the field by participating in the rehabilitation of a village in Kerala. We were the sole Israeli aid organization invited by the Government of Kerala to assist in assessing the needs.  We are working in partnership with a local non-profit organization, Aarogya Charitable Foundation Trust.  Not yet having found a financial partner for this program, this operation has been conducted, until now, out of NATAN’s own reserve funds.


A massive earthquake and tsunami struck Sulawesi Island in Indonesia killing at least 1,948 people this year. More than 70,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by the magnitude 7.5 quake that struck on September 28, 2018. Over 2,500 people were injured and almost 75,000 displaced. Invited by a medical first aid organization to join their mission and to take the logistics leadership, a NATAN professional and experienced volunteer together with two medical staff flew immediately to Jakarta with all the necessary equipment.  The NATAN team was accompanied by a team from our partner organization, Cadena, who brought water filtering devices to install. The Indonesian authorities decided, later, to thoroughly forbid any foreign intervention. The team reached the Palu region, the most devastated zone and could directly witness the human tragedy. Despite the urgent needs and the lack of any adequate aid or response on site, our team had to drive back to Jakarta without delivering the help. Like the other and much bigger International Organizations, we had to stand by helplessly facing a population in dire need, who fell victim to political considerations.


Many refugees and needy populations suffer from dental pain, putting this need as their most pressing unmet priority. This is an area generally ignored by many of the world’s aid organizations. NATAN's mobile clinics will serve the most deprived communities in Israel and abroad, with the first program planned to begin in Ethiopia in early 2019.  In Ethiopia we signed an agreement with the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia for a multiannual dental and oral health program.


Israel’s reputation as the start-up nation is well known. We believe that it is our duty as an international humanitarian organization to build the bridge between technological initiatives and those who need them wherever they are, especially in places remote from the business eye. NATAN’s Social Impact Development volunteers increase the awareness of young entrepreneurs to extend their projects to developing countries or to disaster relief and seek professional advice in implementing their initiatives. In October, NATAN, together with Pears Program for Global Innovation organized and hosted the first Meet-Up of humanitarian professionals with entrepreneurs. The event, hosted at Urban Place in Tel Aviv brought together more than 60 participants, resulting in wide interest and fruitful meetings among potential partners.


Aiming to implement the highest standards in Medical Humanitarian Aid, NATAN is in the middle of the WHO accreditation process. NATAN is one of only two Israeli organizations to have been accepted for this very complex and challenging process, resulting in the internationally recognized Emergency Medical Team 1-Mobile clinic’s accreditation. This process demands an important investment in equipment and staff training. We are seeking a financial partner for this effort. There is no doubt that being recognized as implementing the highest international standards will promote NATAN to the standing of a world leading humanitarian organization.


Meet Dr. Tal Hanani, physician, project manager and professional musician: a percussion artist and African harp player. Tal is a member of Natan’s Core Management Team and is Natan's Medical Coordinator & Project Manager, currently leading Natan’s accreditation process as Emergency Medical Team (EMT1) by the WHO (World Health Organization). Tal joined Natan in 2015, combining her multi-disciplinary academic grounding, skills and broad experience with her passion for improving the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities in a comprehensive and integrative way.  Tal, an Arabic speaker, uses a cross-cultural approach and traditional music as another dimension to connect. She volunteered as a primary medical care physician and music therapist in NATAN's relief mission to Presevo Refugee Transit Camp, Serbia. Having led diverse multicultural community projects for years, Tal says: "Community activity is a way of life. Joining Natan and deploying to Serbia felt natural and was indeed an invaluable life experience for me. After meeting such amazing people:  individuals, who were forced into their shared destiny, I came back from Serbia with lots of questions and some answers, but more than that- with an open heart and new space in my heart and mind for active involvement – no longer standing on the sidelines.  I continue to find ways to bridge innovative and traditional thinking in addressing global development. Focusing on individuals' and community health related humanitarian challenges. Every such experience sparks an inner light where we all share mutual wishes for basic rights, freedom and health of body and mind.”    “We met Nazar, a theater teacher who had fled Syria. Nazar wanted to take part in the activity and assumed the role of producer in the camp. One evening we held a musical concert together with the active participation of camp members from all cultures. Thus, in a huge tent, everyone joined together singing and dancing – with respect for one another and for each other’s culture. There I was, an Israeli girl standing and playing traditional passages together with Abu el-Shams who escaped from Iraq, songs that we all know in the original language. Another living example of the forces connecting music - it was a moment that crossed borders and governments.”
Since Serbia, Tal has been an active member and consultant on Natan's medical development team, contributing in developing, planning and implementing of projects. [see also in this issue: WHO EMT1 Accreditation Process].  Tal continues to develop her expertise and has completed a series of professional Disaster and Emergency Management training courses. In addition, Tal recently completed her PRINCE2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments) certification. Currently Tal is attending a humanitarian health program: Health Emergencies in Large Populations (HELP) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, taught in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Prior to her medical education, Tal lived and worked with traditional communities, pursuing her musical studies in Africa, Cuba and later at the Rimon Music Academy. Today, she continues to perform and compose music.  Over the last decade, Tal founded and led community projects using music and rhythm as an additional non-verbal tool to narrow gaps between cultures and socioeconomic sectors, working towards improving the lives and wellbeing of underprivileged communities, including refugees and asylum seekers, children and elderly with communication and mental challenges, as well as patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. Tal’s aim has been to develop tools which individuals and communities can use to strengthen themselves, increase their capacity and resilience.  In Tal’s words: “It is important to continue investing energy and deepen our knowledge. Accessing the natural, primal emotions triggered by music can help in times of stress when people are most vulnerable to disease and risk. Inside the chaos of an unknown new environment, a familiar sound or rhythm can access a whole life story: childhood, family, neighborhood, thus enhancing medical treatment.”   Last fall, while attending a musical composition residency, Tal took part in Natan's speaking events and meetings which led to ongoing partnerships and operations One meeting at the headquarters of the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees in New York City has led to new joint projects for Natan and partners.

New Initiatives and New Directions for the New Year

Natan Gets the New Year Started

We’re kicking off the new year with new initiatives and new members and volunteers. At headquarters, we’ve been lucky to welcome some new key members to our core team over the past months. These professionals bring their own unique experiences and expertise to Natan. The hard-working volunteers at HQ are the home team, supporting every mission and operation in the field. You can meet all of our core team members on our Team Page: 

New Directions:   We’re working on our strategy and planning for the coming year and beyond. Over the 14 years we’ve been operating, we have already branched out – from the dedication to short-term disaster relief in our early years, to the longer-term community recovery and resilience projects that we’ve been engaged in since. This trend flowed naturally to our ongoing refugee aid projects, started in early 2016 in Serbia and in Greece.  The old lines which once divided Emergency Disaster Relief from International Development projects have become blurred over recent years, as relief organizations move into long-term sustainable programs.


As part of this process, we have strengthened our ties with our sister organization:  EDEN Aid. EDEN was created soon after the tsunami relief operation in Sri Lanka (2004) with the mission of promoting social justice to needy communities in Israel and abroad. Initiated by Adi Ramot, one of Natan's founders, and a group of members of Kibbutz Yotvata, EDEN is dedicated to international development, filling the gap between emergency relief and sustainable programs. Eden and Natan work closely in many operations such as training of trainers and medical relief. The enhanced partnership between both organizations is a strong component of the operations program for 2018, based on new proactive initiatives.

Meet Shelly Zeituni, DMD

Operation: Mobile Dental Clinic, Serbia, August 2017

Dr. Shelly Zeituni, DMD, is President of the Tel Aviv Chapter of the Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity. Shelly was in the first team of dentists in the pilot program of our Mobile Dental Clinic at Krnjaca Refugee Camp in Belgrade, Serbia in August. These days Shelly works at a private dental clinic in Zichron Yaakov and also serves as Medical Advisor and Medical Scientific Liaison at Novartis. With all this, Shelly somehow also finds the time to volunteer regularly with the Diamond Dental Care project helping refugee and migrant children in South Tel Aviv.  When asked how she manages to do all this, Shelly answered: “It‘s just a matter of prioritizing. Once you decide to do it, you can find the time. You get so much from the experience that you find it worthwhile. We can’t count on the government to help. Only heart to heart, people to people.”

It’s no surprise that Shelly was first to serve with our mobile dental clinic. Even before the location and details of the operation were finalized, Shelly heard about the project through a Facebook posting. Shelly got in touch with Natan immediately and got on board.

Organizing the first operation took months, including seemingly endless paperwork required to get permission for the first clinic, and of course training on the unique mobile equipment which was donated to Natan for this purpose. Then it finally happened. The okay came through and soon Shelly was on the plane with the team, including fellow dentist, Sivan Shemer.

Once we got to Serbia we faced many challenges. For instance, our new clinic was just an empty room with no sink or running water. A plumber was called, and the sink installed within a couple days. The work itself was another challenge. Since we were just two dentists, with no dental assistant on the team, each dentist had to serve as the dental assistant for the other, with each of us leaning over the patient and working together without a break.  Other than a lunch break, we basically stayed together in the clinic room for 12 hours each day. But it worked out well and we finished each day tired but happy about what we’d accomplished. When you volunteer, if you do it with all your heart, you don’t feel the pain or discomfort or hunger. You feel inspired to do more and more.

Working with refugees has made me realize just how unpredictable life can be. Any second you can go from having everything to having nothing and no one cares.

One of the most moving things happened one day after we’d completed checkups for two siblings, a brother and sister. Once we finished the checkups, the children left.  A while later there was a knock on the door and the little boy was standing there holding a plate with 2 bananas. He said “This is from my mom for helping us.”  Seeing these people give from the very little they have, made me realize the meaning of giving.

When Syrians and Israelis meet and become One Happy Family

Adi Maya was Head of Delegation to Greece from April to July, 2017.

Reports from Syria have been flowing in for 5 years now, and my wish to help would not let up. I kept asking myself how I can contribute and knew I had to do something. In March 2017, the opportunity to be involved and not stand aside finally came. I was offered to serve as Head of Mission of Natan International Humanitarian Aid in a field operation on Lesvos Island, Greece, where the refugee crisis is still ongoing.

I spent 3 months there, and was part of a unique project that Natan established together with a private Swiss foundation and Jewish and Arab youth movements, Hashomer Hatzair and Ajyal; a community and education center for refugees called One Happy Family.

A funny name – One Happy Family - isn't it? What does it even mean - that we are one family? Especially a happy one? Tolstoy wrote that "all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way". On Lesvos I discovered that the reality for Syrian refugees and Israeli volunteers is more complex than that: How can we be happy when chaos, instability, uncertainty and fleeing catastrophic war dictate a life of forever seeking refuge and asylum? Especially when we operate in a place where the majority of the refugees come from countries which are considered to be enemies:  Syria, Iran, Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq?

Those refugees face the difficult conditions in which they live for many months, the dirt and filth, the insecurity and confrontations with people from other nationalities, local authorities’ brutality and constant delays of their asylum interviews, the nightmares, the memories from the harrowing journey they went through to get to Europe, the situation in their countries, the worries for their loved ones left behind, the scary boat ride from Turkey and with their unknown future. And yet they feel proud, dignified and sometimes even happy.

The OHF is a remarkable oasis outside the closed, limiting, oppressive and confined barbed-wire environment of the camps. Despite the harsh reality, it's a place where people can feel a sense of belonging. Hundreds of people – men, women and families with children – arrive daily and enjoy recreational activities, learn new languages, smoke a water pipe together, and have a cup of coffee on the hilltop at one the most beautiful spots on the island. Some even say that the best coffee on Lesvos is served there, and the views of the Aegean Sea are breathtaking.

The crown jewels are the volunteers and helpers, who have become prominent and are the heart and soul of the place. Early morning in Moria Refugee Camp, when everyone else is still asleep, they wake up, dress and are ready to spend another day doing something meaningful for fellow refugees. They come to OHF, make breakfast, serve coffee, wash the dishes, clean, cut hair, work out at the gym, work in the warehouse, repair or distribute clothes, play with the children and feed them while the mothers attend a photography or embroidery workshop class, or even play music, culturally-appropriate to all the various nationalities. They can also enjoy lunch in the dining area. Ahmad, a refugee who works in the kitchen, and his team, work daily to provide all visitors the best and most diverse meals, whether it's maklouba or pasta.

There are no transparent people or children here – our team knows all the regular visitors by name. Anyone who is sick receives medical treatment or gets a ride and accompanied to the hospital, whoever wants to talk and share their personal story can find someone to listen to them, people who feel lonely can socialize and bond with others, and whenever someone from the international volunteers' team is sick or upset, they will be taken care of by the people from the camps. The feeling of caring is mutual and works both way, and as a result, prejudice slowly diminish.

The educational activity is also unique – the children arrive from Kara Tepe and Moria Refugee Camps to attend the OHF afternoon-education center daily, and learn their own mother tongue (Arabic, Farsi or French). When they return to camp in the evening, they are singing and laughing, their happiness is flowing and the joy is pouring out of them. And we know that they have had another day of normality where they could just be children.

The OHF's unique features in the local landscape vis-à-vis the international aid organizations which operate here, stems from the fact that the community center, as well as the education center were built shoulder to shoulder with the refugees from within the camps – the teachers at the school are educators in their countries of origin, and the varied projects, facilities and services are all initiatives created by camp residents, including building and construction.

Occasionally, large dinners are hosted at the OHF community center to celebrate special events such as birthdays and goodbye parties. During the Ramadan holiday, massive Iftar dinners were served twice a week, accommodating approx. 400 people. Volunteers and refugees would work together and later after the cleanup sit to eat. Despite the situation on Lesvos Island, we have managed to create normality and togetherness.

As time goes by, everyone became friends, and the Syrian-Israeli connection becomes tighter. Arabic sounds friendlier to our ears, the refugees accept our presence, and it's easier to bridge cultural gaps and opinions. They understand that we are here to help. Who would have thought that somewhat cliché or naïve name would be justified and a few months after the operation began, we would in fact become one family?  On the contrary to what Tolstoy claimed, our "happy family" is special and comprised of people from all around the globe including Syrians, Palestinians and Israelis, and is not similar at all to any other happy family in the world.

Getting Started: Mobile Dental Clinic Project

We are excited to be starting this important project. 
Yesterday we held the first meeting of dentists who have volunteered for the mobile dental project for refugee camps in Europe. This meeting was to learn about the organization and the mission and all its components.
The mobile dental clinic is a unique project in the international aid arena.
Over the last two years, in the various meetings with the population in the refugee camps, our organization identified the need for the basic service of hygiene and dental care, which often goes unanswered.
Natan has undertaken the task of providing a basic medical response to emergencies among the refugee population that has not been properly treated since they left their homelands for Europe in their quest for survival.

Through a generous donation, we have acquired a unique mobile dental care unit which folds into one compact case and is packed in a lightweight rolling suitcase. 
We are proud and excited, together with our partners Cadena and Alpha Omega, to start this project with an impressive mobile dental clinic that includes all the equipment required for proper, safe and dignified care. We are proud of this wonderful group of over 30 dedicated Israeli volunteer dentists: Jews and Arabs who are now beginning this important and unique humanitarian mission.
Wishing everyone good luck - We are setting off now!

HeadStart Campaign - 22 days to save our School in Greece

This post comes from: Yair Leibel, Head of our Education Delegation, Lesbos Greece

Four months ago we went to Greece to set up a school for refugee children on Lesbos Island in Greece.

When we got to the island we found a difficult reality. We did not find hungry children nor did we find children in mortal danger, but we found hundreds of children growing up in a world of uncertainty.  A world where you do not have the feeling that someone is there to make sure you're okay. Children who grow up in a world that humanity has forgotten or at least does not like to look at.

Four months ago, I went to one of the camps on the island and together with my friend Yusef Kabha, we brought a pack of handicraft activities for a few of the children who were wandering around the camp. That day we met our first students. We sat down with them to make a god’s eye yarncraft and I felt embarrassed. Who am I and who are we that come here, open an activity pack and think we have the right to educate in this place? Who gave us the mandate? Two of the first children we met were Arash and Anoosha. A brother and sister from Afghanistan who settled down and started playing with us. Just like that. Because they had nothing else to do.

When we opened the school two months ago, Arash and Anoosha were the first to register. They had never gone to school before. While Arash would have gone to go to school if the family had stayed in Afghanistan; Anoosha would not have, since they fled an area where the Taliban does not allow girls to go to school.

In the last two months we have had the privilege of meeting fifty children who come to study every day. They love their teachers, they do their homework and they fall in love with each other.

Last week, a new Afghan girl joined the school and yesterday one of the Syrian students informed us that he wanted to move to the Afghan classroom. At first we did not understand why, but during recess I saw him leaving the school with a cup of cold water and serving it to this girl. She smiled at him and her friends giggled nearby, making little heart signs with their hands.

Our school is an international school of students from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Congo. The lessons are taught in Arabic, Persian and French, and our teaching staff consists of people from five countries and seven different ethnic groups. They are all refugees.

This is a group of people who succeed against all odds to create together a heart of human cooperation and fraternity where we would least expect to find them. The word "refugees" is a demeaning word. We do not work with pitiful people. We work with heroes and heroines who, after everything they have gone through in their lives, choose to volunteer and teach every day.

We raised the money for the establishment of the school thanks to a wide group of people who decided to trust us and send us on this mission. Together with them we collected a quarter of a million shekels that enabled us to set up the school and operate it. After touching the souls of so many children and families, we understand that we did not come here by accident and that we must continue our school activities. We need your help to continue.

We have launched a new fundraising campaign through the HeadStart website.

We have 22 days to find out if we need to close the school or whether we can continue the activity for yet another period of time.

If you can afford just 50 shekels to support our project and if you believe in a world of growth and cooperation, then join us. Share with your friends, your groups and together with you we can continue our school and allow more big and small hearts to find the peace and calm  needed to enjoy some more carefree moments of childhood and life. To find calm and to grow .

To support the school:

To the Facebook page :

June 20, 2017: WORLD REFUGEE DAY

Our human duty: Acting on behalf of humanity and in solidarity with the refugees

The number of refugees in the world today stands at 65.5 million, of whom 22.5 million are refugees who have fled for their lives because of a real risk to their lives in their countries of origin.  More than half of them under the age of 18. Tens of millions of people who, because of varying circumstances, are seeking a better life on this earth.

Humans. Not statistics; with a rich tapestry of faces, names and histories, who are crying out to find a new life for themselves, a place they can call home.

Today we remember and remind everyone of the moral obligation of the entire world for solidarity and action to provide a proper response to the refugee crisis and to the refugees.

Tell them they are not alone!

 #worldrefugeeday  # Global Solidarity   # World Refugee Day

Miracles Happen @ One Happy Family, Lesbos, Greece

by Nili Bresler, site visit to Lesbos, June 2017

Last week I had the privilege of spending time with my friends at One Happy Family - Community Center, Lesvos - amazing people, working together to make big and little miracles happen every day in real time! OHF is a magical place: an oasis of peace and harmony among the chaos of this crazy world. Situated between two nearby refugee camps, the center is built on 6 acres of land on a hilltop that had only a huge abandoned warehouse and debris.  It is now a beautiful and well-equipped community center and campus, decorated with gardens and murals all created by the community, i.e., refugees.  Being there, I could see why the people from the camps trek up the long steep hill everyday in 95 degree heat to come to our center. They can sit and sip coffee, work out at the gym (the trainer is very strict: You miss a scheduled session and you're in hot water) , puff on a water pipe, chat with friends and of course study English, Greek and other subjects at our school. A little oasis of normalcy before they have to return to the camps at sundown.  The Center is staffed by the refugees themselves. They learn new jobs, or do jobs they already knew from home. The Center has a tailor, barbers, cooks, artists and sign-makers (some very talented calligraphers), cleaners, handymen, childcare workers and even a self-taught barista - who makes a wonderful cup of coffee in a donated cappuccino machine. . . So many smiles, so many incredible people . One of these people is Salim,  who teaches at our school. He's not just a teacher, but also a storyteller, a gardener and a dreamer. He has a little book where every visitor must write a wish for peace. He told me once it's filled, he'll start a new one. And one real hero is the center's cook, who somehow manages to feed hundreds of people daily, with the most basic ingredients, and cooking out of a tiny field kitchen, located outside of the center. Average heat in the kitchen must be over 40 degrees (105 F) most of the time!  I left Lesbos a few days ago, but my heart is still there. Now I, too, am part of One Happy Family - Community Center, Lesvos !


One Happy Family Center, an oasis of peace and harmony

Meet one of our founding members, Henry Elkeslassy


I began my volunteer activities at the age of 16, when I initiated and established the stations for the distribution of sandwiches and drinks to soldiers at the Ashdod junction every Friday. This idea caught on like wildfire and other distribution stations were established all over the country. Since then, the germ of volunteerism in me has not let up. Wherever I could help others, I immediately got on board.

I met Abie Nathan for the first time when we both started the campaign for the children of Biafra without knowing each other. I needed help and assistance in sending clothes to Biafra and people recommended that I turn to Abie, who had a large warehouse in the old port of Tel Aviv.  I have coordinated humanitarian operations in Israel and around the world to assist populations affected by natural disasters and humans. First with Abie Nathan and then independently, after Abie underwent a stroke. I continued to help him, together with other good friends.

On Independence Day in 2001, I was chosen to light a torch on Mount Herzl on an evening devoted to volunteers, for years of volunteering.

I coordinated rehabilitation activities in Turkey after the earthquake. I was a partner in the Sri Lanka aid operation after the tsunami, and later on I coordinated ongoing activities with Adi Ramot of Yotvata for the construction of a residential village, a clinic, a community center and the renovation of the orphanage, Beit Yatomot. Following the Second Lebanon War, I coordinated the "Follow Me to the North" operation, which involved 560 American students, with the aim of helping the residents of the north, rehabilitating and painting shelters, planting forests and more, with the assistance of the Schusterman Foundation with David Geffel and Yaakov Asher.

I managed the rehabilitation project of the Yemin Orde Youth Village, after the Carmel fire, at the request of Marc Salomon, who contributed greatly. Since 2007, I have distributed scholarships to volunteers in various organizations that specialize in the treatment of people with special needs. The scholarships were awarded by the Schusterman Foundation in recognition of my volunteer activities in rehabilitating the north.

After the tsunami disaster, I worked to establish the Natan organization in the name of Abie Nathan with other dear friends, and I served as chairman for three years, and I am grateful to the hundreds of wonderful people who work together and are constantly re-enlisted to the kibbutz movement.

Hoping and wishing that there will be no more disasters and that the spirit of volunteerism will continue to flow forever.


Behind the label "refugee" in every photo caption is a human being...

Natan social worker, Tal Shami, spent one month at the refugee center on Lesbos Island. Tal  shares her experiences:

Lesbos, Greece, April 21, 2017

I am here as part of Natan's humanitarian aid delegation in cooperation with the organization: SwissCrossHelp, Hashomer Hatzair and Ajyal. As part of the activities here, we're taking part in establishing and operating a community and educational center for refugee and refugee children, a center that is an island of sanity in a crazy reality.

There are thousands of refugees from Lesbos who fled their countries for fear of their lives and left everything behind. Today, too, every month they continue to reach an island of boats laden with refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. We see and hear about the situation in the news and see the pictures and the people. Some of us are more concerned and some of us less. It's important to remember that behind every picture and behind each caption reading "refugees" there are people for whom the reality of their lives changed overnight from one extreme to another. From professionals, family members, academics, etc., they became refugees. A word that manages to describe the sharp transition from a full and complete life to a life of despair, uncertainty, pain and sadness. The situation here is not simple. These same refugees live in refugee camps that they describe as a prison, sleeping in overcrowded tents and surviving under difficult conditions.

I have met so many impressive and unique people from a wide range of countries. Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Algeria and more. People who yearn for a better future and who simply want to live in peace – people who want what most of us want: family, freedom, livelihood, love, health and life without war, killing and destruction.


To illustrate the depth of the experience, Tal shared this story: 

"The Virus"

There is an informal English lesson that I've been teaching with Sam, an Iraqi refugee who currently lives in Germany and is currently volunteering through SwissCrossHelp.  Gradually, a small, regular group began to meet at the last table at the center every day at 4:00 PM.  In this lesson, we practiced words and terms from the world of medicine and health.  In the class were Anwar from Egypt, Walid from Syria and Muhammad from Algeria. When we got to the word virus, suddenly the atmosphere changed. Walid (in the green shirt) began to call Anwar "You are a virus, I love you, virus, I do not hate you, virus"   We all laughed and then it was quiet for a few moments. Walid told us how he and Anwar had arrived together in a boat and how he almost drowned and Anwar saved him. Later on, he told us that he had been the manager of an oil company in Syria and that his house and his business had been destroyed and that now all he wants is to get out of here.   Between the moments of laughter and learning, reality appeared and reminded us that despite the relaxed and enjoyable situation here, reality is much more difficult.


Lesbos: Educational Center - Getting Started!

Our teachers' room.

After long weeks of construction work, our Educational Enrichment Center at the refugee center on Lesbos is ready to start operations!  Today we held the first staff day of the Education Center.

We sat for two hours of introduction and first thoughts about the schedule and the subjects.
The first to speak at the meeting was Salem. Father of a large family in Syria who was forced to flee and leave his family behind: "Today we are building the most special school in the world." He said and smiled. The conversation was conducted in four languages: English, Arabic, Persian and Hebrew. "This is the most special school in the world because Syrians, Israelis, Iranians and Afghans are sitting in this room, trying to understand together how to connect the world instead of tearing it up." Again the translators exchanged languages before Salem continued, "I will give you an example. The first time I met my friends here from Israel and sat with them, someone came to ask me how I was sitting with Jews at the same table. I looked at him and told him he was wrong. I told him we should sit together. I told him that this was the real way and that it was just the politicians who were the ones who had an interest in separating us. It is our responsibility, of the people sitting in this room to raise a new generation that will bring peace. Through us the children who are growing up in the camps today will see that it is possible to act differently. We will show them that there is another way. "

Meet our school staff: Salem and Ami from Syria, Ramzan, Nikos and Katrina of Iran, Abdallah and Javad from Afghanistan and we, Jewish and Arab teachers from Israel.


Refugee Education Center on Lesbos Island, Greece

Refugee Camp, Lesbos, Greece. March 2017

After long days of laying the groundwork, anticipation and preparation at home and then at the refugee camp, it's time to get down to work. We are pleased to report that even while still preparing the infrastructure of the educational center building, we have just started preliminary activities for children, teens and adults. The activity is led by volunteers who are representatives of the organizations: Natan, Hashomer Hatzair, and Ajyal.

We are excited to start working and looking forward to the next delegation of volunteers.     We are so proud of our members who are making real human connections of love for humanity.

About our mission:

The Bi-National Education Delegation is composed of three organizations that came together for the purpose of carrying out education activities with the refugees. Natan, which provides humanitarian aid, Ajyal - an organization operating in the Arab sector in Israel and Hashomer Hatzair - an organization operating in the Jewish sector in Israel and around the world.

The current delegation consists of educators with more than 10 years of field experience working with children and youth, as well as part of a both in the framework of formal schools as well as non-formal education, including after-school programs.

Classroom, One happy family education center, Lesbos, Greece

Classroom, One happy family education center, Lesbos, Greece

Group activity with mothers and children 

Group activity with mothers and children 


Yusef's Story - Yusef Kabha, Ajyal Volunteer - March 2017

Yusef Kabha, Ajyal Alumni 

Yusef Kabha, Ajyal Alumni 

When I learned that I was going to Greece to volunteer in the Syrian refugee camps, I became very excited  And I anticipated every day of the trip.  When I arrived in Greece, Einav took us on a tour of the refugee camps where I was very excited and began to talk to the male refugees. I was very excited by their stories about how they arrived and how they lived in an abandoned place. My friends and I started a little creative activity. I was especially excited to work with the Afghan children who are so talented, and quick to learn, intelligent and knowledgeable about culture.

Of the men who were around, we managed to enlist them to help us. There was a Syrian guy who was good at drawing. He painted the barrels that are used as a fence on our corner.  I had a lot of conversations with people who have hope and look toward their future with optimism. These are strong people. There is no doubt that they have difficulty living in the camp because of the lack of comforts, where their basic needs are not met.

What bothered me throughout my time there is the organizations that work there. There is a very strong political game and every organization is occupied with its own self-interest and its reputation. And there is almost no accurate update process between the organizations about what is happening and what is being done and what is lacking. This results in inaccurate information. I, as Yusef, went there to contribute and not to deal with the organizational war.

Anyway, I do have a very good feeling that we will build and operate the Education Center there. I had the honor to help plan the school's appearance and location. The members who traveled after me are setting up the school physically and it is now in the final stages of completion

As a Palestinian Arab citizen of the State of Israel, it was not so clear to people what that meant: Was I Israeli or Palestinian? This was something that my friend, Yair, and I managed to convey in the best light. In the end, the refugees accepted us as people who had come to help wholeheartedly regardless of nationality, culture or language

I returned to Israel with the feeling that I wanted the stay on.  I don't feel I've given all I can, and I plan to return if necessary.

Yusef Kabha - Ajyal

With the Refugees on Chios Island, Greece

from Maayan Zohar

Chios, February 2017

I landed in the midst of Natan's campaign to help the refugees. After introductions with all parties, it slowly began to seep in. The people, the stories, the cold that penetrates through all the layers, and the desire to help. Refugee is a concept that does not even begin to describe the personal stories: who came from where and why they fled; the chaos of languages, cultures and identities mingling with the concept of something smaller. Everyone looks the same to someone who is standing outside the camp.

We pass among the tents in Souda Camp, and greet people. Day by day we begin to recognize faces, families, women and girls who share their stories through training sessions on resilience and trauma. Even the volunteers here on the island are facing a difficult reality. There's a lack of training in the various organizations and despite all the good will, it is not always enough to change the harsh reality of this crisis. Chios is only a fraction of what is happening in Jordan, Lebanon, Germany, Sweden and many other countries which have been filled with asylum seekers in a short time. It is becoming increasingly difficult not to think about my family. This man my father's age slept in a tent filled with water. The woman with the baby reminds me of my grandmother and grandfather who ran away with their baby during the Holocaust. It all comes together, and now everything we learn leads us to stories of strength and bravery. People who have done everything for their families, for their neighbors; people who left everything behind, venturing out into the unknown. History repeats itself, and this time, what will the next generation have to say? What have we done for the sake of those who escaped the inferno, the regime which tried to destroy them, and the extremist group which was even worse than the government? When you see the big picture, it may seem like a small matter. But we were there, we sat with them, heard their names, their stories, and we tried to strengthen them and help them cope and fight for their rights. We will say that we did what we could. And the more people who join us, the more people who know who they are, their names, and them ... They knew they were not alone anymore in this war. And it is really no small thing, it is a great deal.

Maayan Zohar is a Social Worker  currently completing her Master's Degree in Humanitarian Action from Uppsala University and University College Dublin. Maayan is a humanitarian worker and a feminist, working on resilience building and coping with trauma. Maayan is an active member of Natan's Psycho-Social Unit and served in Natan's recent operation on Chios, where she worked with refugees and trained volunteers of international aid organizations.  
Maayan, right,  with Natan colleagues Faida and Oded on Chios Island, Greece

Maayan, right,  with Natan colleagues Faida and Oded on Chios Island, Greece

NATAN- member profile Nagat Yassin

Who am I? I am an Israeli Palestinian woman , member of a large family with roots centuries' long in the country, the mother of four – my oldest is 20 and my youngest is 10 years old. With a Master's Degree in Social Work, a family therapist and group facilitator by training, I have worked as a freelancer in the fields of welfare, education and health throughout my career.

Joining Natan for voluntary action last year came from my roots – being part of a people for whom refugeeism is central to our narrative. It was not an obvious thing to do: leave everything behind one day to travel to the end of the world, to the middle of nowhere, to accompany refugees in their migration toward Europe.

My presence there for 5 weeks during the past year, affected me in ways difficult to put into words… Suddenly life seems fluid and unclear - a total mess, a lack of understanding of this surreal reality of parenting, of children, of an unfair world and cruel life.

In a parallel process, I saw how strong the value of life can be and how far we are willing to go in order to choose life. When I return home from this journey, I feel blessed with my children, my home and every little thing that I have.

Today, several months after this experience, I find I have an inner strength and another layer that I did not have before. Life is beautiful and we always will continue to be strong for ourselves and for others.

NEPAL - Improving health and GBV prevention in isolated villages

NEPAL – Improving health and GBV prevention in isolated villages

On a clear day at the end of July, in the heart of the monsoon season in Nepal, three hundred residents of the village Goganpani began a full day of events aimed at fighting gender-oriented violence. Everyone was there: teachers, leaders, men, women and children, all under the leadership of someone who had graduated from one of the courses which the NATAN organization has been offering since January 2016. As part of the day's event there was a play about alcoholism and violence and there were songs about strengthening the woman's position that had been composed especially for the event.

This exceptional community event is the product of a process of training that had started this past February as a continuation of the aid provided following the earthquake, during which teams from NATAN came to remote villages and learned the local needs in health and childbirth.

In cooperation with the JDC (American Joint Distribution Committee) and CIRDS, a local development organization in Nepal, a three-stages program was embarked on to deal with the health issues of adult and young women.

Following several hours of walking from their mountainous village, 84 participants, men and women, arrived for 6 days of study at the seminar center in Dahding.

Two courses were run simultaneously: Irit Dotan taught the village midwives the secrets of the trade and Dr. Avigail Maayani worked with the teachers, youth counselors and community activists on sex education and gender awareness.

In June 2016, Naama Shilo arrived to carry out the next stage in the transition from theory to practice, working with a select group of participants on the planning and implementation of community projects.

During the course 20 practical projects were planned and constructed in the fields of health, hygiene, gender and sexuality to foster prevention, treatment and improvement of the quality of life. Gender Awareness Day in Goganpani was one of these projects.

During July we reported on a number of initiatives which had been launched, such as the professional brainstorm meetings, the establishment of committees to deal with local problems and training and knowledge transfer sessions in various fields.

Irit, Avigail and Naama have returned to Dahding in September for the third stage of the program, where they will present further workshops to participants of the previous workshops in the fields of childbirth and women's health, to solidify the existing projects and to initiate projects in additional fields.

FCHV's were selected by the government and had two sessions of learning and practicing some basic and essential professionally relevant topics. All of the group members participated in both training courses which gave them considerable information and tools to make their own work better to save lives and to be able to share the knowledge with others. 40 community volunteers were selected for the training, coming from various groups, including health teachers, community activists and others. 19 active members of the community workers were selected to continue the overall process. Each one of the participants gained much relevant knowledge and professional guidance and support to create and implement a community-based project in their communities.

 FCHV's were selected by the government and had two sessions of learning and practicing some basic and essential professionally relevant topics. All of the group members participated in both training courses which gave them considerable information and tools to make their own work better to save lives and to be able to share the knowledge with others. 40 community volunteers were selected for the training, coming from various groups, including health teachers, community activists and others. 19 active members of the community workers were selected to continue the overall process. Each one of the participants gained much relevant knowledge and professional guidance and support to create and implement a community-based project in their communities.

This training course was a process of ongoing needs assessments, evaluation, program building, adaptation and preparation.

The overall training course presents a unique model which combines the theoretical as well as the practical aspects and its development process that can be adapted to many other communities around the world and in a various topics and professions.

The achievement of the overall course indicates its success and we are really proud to be part of it. We greatly appreciate all parties involved in this training course – our experts, our donors and our partners all of whom made this happen and made it so successful

We hope and believe that the implementation of the community projects will continue and will contribute to the improvement of health and awareness in the area.

This operation is a partnership with JDC- the American Jewish Distribution Committee and CIRDS.


SERBIA - Helping our neighbors faraway

Serbia - Helping our neighbors faraway

During recent years, since the start of the Syrian civil war, there has been a surge of millions of refugees fleeing the areas of destruction in Syria into neighboring countries and Europe, in search of refuge and a better life.

In September 2015 the world was shocked by photos of the body of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year old ­­whose small, lifeless body was found washed ashore in Turkey. This incident was a significant turning point at which the nations of the world and aid organizations began to recognize the plight of Syrian refugees and to take action.

In November 2015 NATAN joined these efforts in what seemed to be a central crossroads in the migration of the refugees to the European countries who had opened their gates to them.

Over several months NATAN operated a clinic for thousands of refugees in the transit camp in Presevo Serbia, working together with B92 and the local organizations of Humedica and Info Park. Over 50 medical and psycho-social aid professionals took part in this campaign, working side by side: Jews, Arabs working in cooperation and coexistence with sensitivity and professionalism worthy of inspiration and admiration.

When Europe closed its gates, the camp in Presevo went from being a transit camp to a permanent refugee camp with hundreds of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan stranded there. The clinic served the camp residents until it was closed in April 2016.

In July, at the request of our local partners, NATAN renewed its activity in Belgrade, Serbia, where there are hundreds of refugees left without minimal living conditions and no hope for better living conditions. Following a thorough analysis of the situation, it was found that the need was for the training of volunteers from local aid organizations who are doing the difficult and sensitive daily work there.

Further to this finding, NATAN's professional experts provided training to several local aid organizations in order to improve their ability to cope with the existing situation and to improve the level of aid and service they provide, so as to benefit the refugees, the unofficial residents of the city.

Currently, NATAN is in the process of receiving approval to enter refugee camps on the borders of Serbia in order to continue to help however it can, in this unprecedented humanitarian crisis, with no good outcome to be seen on the horizon.

This operation is funded by JCDR- the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief – and private donors