“Nobody asks permission to kill, we don’t ask permission to save lives.”—Israeli Flying Aid
Israeli Flying Aid (IFA) is a nonprofit, volunteer-based, non-governmental organization (NGO) that delivers life-saving aid to communities affected by natural disasters and human conflict. IFA operates in places where local regimes prevent entry to formal international humanitarian organizations and they mostly work with countries that lack diplomatic relations with Israel, but IFA’s mission and impact works beyond diplomacy and politics. IFA team members are true Zionists, love their homeland, and represent the pulsating heart of Israel. They believe in the sanctity of human life and dignity as reflected in the Jewish religion, transcending differences, prejudice, race, nationality, religion, and creed. “Devote yourself to justice, aid the wronged, uphold the rights of the orphan, defend the cause of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). IFA’s holistic approach encompasses all relevant expertise for natural disasters and human conflicts: mass feeding centers, search-and-rescue teams, emergency medical aid, and immediate emotional trauma intervention.
IFA was established in 2005 by Gal Lusky in response to Chapter 7 of the Security Council Charter and of the Rome Statute, which outline the definitions for crimes against humanity, genocide, and acts of aggression. Prevention of aid, however, is not considered a crime, and a regime/government can therefore deny the entry of lifesaving aid into its territory, prevent medical care, and starve its own civilians to death, according to international law. Due to Chapter 7, a manageable disaster is often turned into a weapon of mass destruction. IFA believes that when there is a clash between justice and international laws, justice should prevail, and women and children should not pay a price for being born to one political side or another.
Starting from 2011, IFA was one of the first international NGOs assisting the victims of Assad’s atrocities in Syria. IFA volunteers faced constant life-threatening situations while purchasing and distributing critical aid and supplies to displaced Syrians via three different borders, all below the radar and far from the public eye. After five years of helping provide life-saving aid to Syrians, the IFA was approached by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to help provide direct humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians in the Syrian Golan Heights, which would eventually become Operation Good Neighbor. Under strict confidentiality, IFA approached several trustworthy companies and Christian and Jewish organizations for financial support, logistics, and medical equipment, including Joseph Project, Wings of Hope, Gleanings for the Hungry, Global Gateway Network, Baylor Scott Hospital (Texas), and more.
The IDF and Israeli Flying Aid also established a maternity ward in Bariqa, Syria, that included prenatal intensive care, labor rooms, a nursery, and two surgery rooms—one for C-sections and the other for rape victims. The maternity ward treated over 600 women a month, almost double its original capacity. Some of the women came from the suburbs of Damascus, over 60 km away, due to the fact that it was a state-of-the-art medical facility that, unlike others in this chaotic situation, treated only women and was therefore assumed to be safe from the regime’s air strikes. Throughout the years of war in Syria, IFA always gave special care and attention to Syrian orphans. Orphans in the Islamic world are especially vulnerable because Sharia law forbids adoption.
By 2018, IFA had provided millions of dollars worth of medications, medical equipment, and supplies to support 14 hospitals and clinics within Syria. The organization had also equipped and trained firefighters and search-and-rescue teams (known as the White Helmets), trained 22 Syrian orthopedists to print prosthetic upper limbs, supplied 3-D printers, provided millions of meals to besieged areas, and supplied tons of baby formula, tents, blankets, and basic refugee supplies to Syrians who had lost everything they owned. The activities were funded by both small donations and larger contributions earmarked by Israelis (including a crowdfunding campaign that raised $500,000 in two-and-a-half weeks), American Jewish organizations, Christian organizations in the U.S. and Europe, and private foundations and individuals.
When the Assad regime re-conquered the Syrian territory bordering with Israel in 2018, the IDF and IFA lost access to helping the neighboring Syrians. IFA immediately shifted its focus to the Kurdish area in northern Syria, where there are a large number of “half ISIS babies,” babies born to kidnapped teen Yazidi mothers who were raped in ISIS captivity, are not accepted back into the Yazidi community. IFA focuses on raising awareness for these crises, and encouraging other NGOs to step in and provide critical humanitarian aid wherever it is needed and not limit themselves to where it is allowed.