The Philippines has taken a beating of biblical proportions. The Red Cross has estimated that over 10,000 have been killed and 600,000 displaced from the unprecedented”apocalyptic” Typhoon Haiyan.
Having visited the Philippines four times over the last six months, I would like to share why I feel compelled to write this letter of blessing and solidarity to our dear friends in the Far East and why I encourage Jews in Israel and around the world to contribute to both the Israeli and global relief efforts.
When first arriving in the Philippines, I knew the facts about their unparalleled support of Israel. I knew that they were the only Asian country to vote in favor of the UN resolution regarding the creation of a Jewish State. I had seen the striking “Open Doors” monument in Rishon LeTzion memorializing the Philippines decision to open their doors and welcome the Jews fleeing Nazi Germany as the rest of the world were closing theirs.
What I didn’t know was people of the Philippines… personally. During my travels throughout the Far East, each country has its own uniquely positive qualities yet the Philippines stand out as a distinct anomaly in the region.
Since my very first day in Manila I was overwhelmed at the seemingly innate qualities of warmth, affection, and joy inherent in the Filipino people.
I’m a Texan. I like to hug. I hug everybody. By my second trip to the Far East, I pretty much cut that out of interpersonal arsenal. While most of the people I have met in the other countries were kind and welcoming – I wouldn’t exactly describe them as the effusively affectionate “huggy” types.
The Philippines however…well that country is one big hug.
The short video below shows the spontaneous welcome I received within my first hour in the Philippines.
“A man is not judged by how many servants he has, but by how many people he serves,” my grandfather often said. If this piece of wisdom is indeed true, then in the humble opinion of this Jerusalem Jew, the Philippines is a nation that should be judged with favor and compassion.
While many people I encounter throughout the world are giving and kind, there is certain eagerness, even gratitude, which I sense from most Filipino’s when they are given an opportunity to be of service. I often feel that I am doing a Filipino a favor by asking them for one. I even learned during my last trip that quite a few Filipino’s have dedicated their time and energy to volunteering in Israel and that some of those who we see caring for our elderly – well they are volunteering their time for those who need their care yet cannot afford it!
Enhanced by their disarming humility, these holy and heartwarming qualities have secured this beautiful nation a special place in my heart. Therefore as a proud Jew and a card carrying member of the human race I believe it is not only our responsibility, but our privilege, to come to the aid of our Filipino brethren in any way possible. While we offer humanitarian assistance to all in need – even our greatest enemies – when our friends are in trouble we must be that much more forthcoming.
IsraAid and a number of other Jewish organizations have already been launched to send medical, trauma and relief professionals, as well as much needed supplies to address the needs of the desperate and terrified people who are starving, thirsty, injured, and confused. Additionally, Israel ambassador Menashe Bar-On, has provided exemplary leadership which has done justice in reflecting the heartfelt care and concern our nation has for the Philippines.
May our friends in the Philippines be blessed with miraculous waves of healing and consolation, health and serenity. May they always know that the State of Israel and the Jewish people stand with them with unwavering love and support.