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


Volunteering and Professionalism

Volunteering and Professionalism

Committed to the Volunteers’ professionalism , NATAN organizes regularly training sessions focused on the running field operations. In the last year, together with SID-ISRAEL and under its auspices, four trainings for a total of some 120 trainees have prepared the volunteers for future missions. As part of this effort, we are glad to be part of a new structure: 

The School for Humanitarian Aid was established at the Kibbutz Seminar within the framework of the Institute for Field Studies.

This school was designed to meet the training needs of professional aid workers; to create standards in the area of humanitarian aid in Israel, while meeting international standards, using the knowledge and experience accumulated by the Israeli aid organizations, to leverage Israeli humanitarian activity within the country and abroad. This institute is the first in Israel, completely dedicated to International Humanitarian Aid, under the auspices of an Academic institution.

NATAN is a strategic partner in establishing and operating this school on the basis of identification with the school's values and professional partnership.

Generations of NATAN volunteers comprise a significant number of the lecturers in the school, which is headed by Einav Levy, a NATAN’s  board member.

Following a first course on general humanitarian practice and another on the legal international aspects of the humanitarian involvement, the School is launching a course for aid delegation leaders, in partnership with NATAN .

The course is designed for people with managerial international experience , among them, seven of NATAN’s missions’ leaders, experienced volunteers who led delegations in the field, are participating. Natan contributes to their course’s tuition.

A trained leader is a key factor in the success of a mission; he is responsible of the team of volunteers and their own well-being,, their security, the relations with the local partner, the authorities, the International organizations on site, the relations with his organization’s HQ, and much more.



I pray for you my dear Syrian heroes. Kamil Malshy

My thoughts and prayers are with you my dear Syrian heroes.



After 26 days spent in Preševo's camp, along with those heroic refugees, I can say that the time I spent there was the highlight of my life so far! Here I am now, sitting in front of my computer trying to recall those unforgettable, heartwarming memories I have left of such a lifetime experience.

On my first day there, I was taken to where I was to receive patients; a tiny, modest clinic, where I met those heroic refugees, treated them, and couldn't but get attached to each one of them. I received many patients during my stay in Serbia; I still remember their stories and their medical conditions, as if it was yesterday.

I will never forget the first patient I treated there; she was an Iraqi Kurdish young woman, who had an eye infection, I treated her wishing her a more fulfilling life, and so we did with thousands of other patients, whose faces are all carved in my memory. 

Not in a million years will I ever forget you dear Warda. Warda came from "Der-Ezzor"- one of the largest cities in Syria. For a woman who was only nineteen and in her fourth month of pregnancy, she suffered a great deal of loss and pain. She came to see me after she has been informed that one of her twin babies was dead. She was shivering, with high fever, pale face caused by anemia and malnutrition, not to mention that she had a urinary tract infection. Regardless of all the bad symptoms she had, she only wanted me to check on her fetus's health. I checked her, gave her some antibiotics and other medications, and told her that she should go to a hospital outside of Šid if she's concerned about the fetus, which she refused, for it would cause her to be separated from her family. She preferred to stay with them, continuing their desperate trip to Germany

On that day, I remember when a young man, the same age as me, came to me begging for some pain killers so that he'd be able to help his wife with carrying their babies. Regardless of his severe medical condition, he refused to be checked. He was very pale, weak, and had a persistent vomiting. He apologized for the mess he caused, and was about to leave until I stopped him. First I couldn't but hug him for his bravery, and tell him how brave I think he is and that I was there for him, and most importantly that he must stay and let me treat him. He stayed eventually, thanks God.

The same scenario kept happening again and again every day; patients who had severe health conditions but still refused to stay for few hours in the clinic for they don't want to be left alone, or separated from their families.

Another remarkable man I met there was Abu Mohammed. He's encountering the experience of being a refugee for the second time in his life; he has been deported from Palestine 67 years ago, lived most of his life in the Syrian Palestinian Yarmouk camp, and now heading to… God knows where.

-Abu Mohammed: are you from Palestine doctor?

-Me: yes, I'm from Haifa, how did you know that?

- Abu Mohammed: Based on your dialect, I'm a Palestinian too. I was deported from Lubia 67 years ago.

Then, all of a sudden, he pressed my hand and started to cry, and continued saying: "oooh doctor, here I am being deported for the second time, along with my family. This is an unjust world."

In the end he asked for his medications and said: "send my love to my beloved Lubia". He was fighting back tears as he spoke. That was definitely one of the scenes that most affected me ever.

As soon as he left my clinic, a crippled young man in a wheel chair came in, with his little brother pulling the wheelchair though he was exhausted. They told me that he was hit by the Syrian army, and cannot walk again, and asked me to check on his wound for it might be infected. I assured them that it was recovering well, and there was no need to worry about it. Then, while I was writing down his name and other details, I saw the little brother trying very hard to put him back in his chair. That was very touching, I felt something I have never felt before, and couldn't withhold my tears, or myself from hugging that little Syrian hero.

To those unfortunate refugees, New Year's Eve was not that special occasion, on the contrary, that night was one of the worst nights in their lives. It was minus fifteen degrees, and there were about thirty children standing outside the crowded tent of UNHCR. We tried to find them a warm and "safe" place to stay the night.

One of the toughest moments I faced in that camp was when we received a phone call at 3:30 in the morning from one of the volunteers, informing us they had an emergency; a two-year-old baby was fighting for his life. We went there as fast as we could, but there was nothing much we could have done at that moment. He had a congestive heart failure, and was unconscious when we got there. He needed to be taken to Germany, for his condition required an urgent surgery. Unfortunately, since we were short on time, he did not make it. His name was Fahd Osama, two-year-old with Down syndrome, from Deer Ezzoor, died on January 11, 2016. Another loss to humanity…

We buried him the same day, in Preševo, along with the other immigrants, away from what once was their home.

Fahd's incident was one of many similar incidents that happened, and are still happening to many Syrian babies. And believe me; hearing about it in the news is nothing like seeing it with your own eyes. Everything changes the moment you go and meet those refugees.

Now that I'm back, every time I'm in the train station, I can't but remember the old rusty train that used to transport thousands of refugees to their "promising" destinations, being their only hope for a better world. My thoughts and prayers are with you my dear Syrian heroes.

Preševo camp_Serbia. 2016

Dr. Kamil Melshy is a graduate of the Technion Medical School, class of 2015. 26 years old, from Haifa. He belongs to an Arab Christian family from Nazareth.

Serbia - kamil.jpg

Our Last year - 5776


5776 has been quite intense for NATAN with two main operations: the medical and psychosocial relief in Nepal after the earthquake, followed by the cycle of trainings in the Dahding district, and the help to the Middle-East refugees on the Balkan route.

This last year more than sixty volunteers took an active part in Natan’s humanitarian effort, all experienced professionals. The operation for the Syrian refugees brought to our volunteer’s community many newcomers of the Israeli-Arab professionals. More than ever before, Natan integrates Jews, Muslim and Christians in the endeavor to help the neediest.

It has also been the proper time to strengthen the organization by a strategic process, completed by a plan for the coming years and by strong partnerships in the training of volunteers.

Preparing for the Next Disaster

When a disaster strikes, it is vital that we are able to deploy professionals in the shortest possible time. Natan aims to have a cadre of well- trained and qualified volunteers who are willing to dispatch to an emergency zone at times of crisis.

Together with our partner SID-Israel, Natan organized a short and intensive training course for professionals interested in volunteering in disaster relief on the topic ‘Principles for Responsible Deployment to an Emergency Zone’

Together with SID-Israel, our closest partner at home, we ran a short and intensive training course for professionals aiming to volunteer in disaster relief. The demand to participate in the course was overwhelming, and from over 120 applicants we selected just over 50 participants. All the participants are from relevant professional fields, most of them with international experience.

The course used Nepal as a case study for working in disaster zones, focusing on humanitarian practices, managing humanitarian projects and the unique conditions of disaster zones.

The training will allow Natan’s volunteers to be more effective in the field, and has expanded our database of potential volunteers for current and future operations.