It almost reads like a bad joke.
What do Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, and Ukraine all have in common?
The answer, quite simply, is that these countries have all evacuated their citizens from Israel since the war broke out last weekend. Sadly, the United States isn’t on that list.
How is it possible that the country that prides itself on its compassion and its long track record of being the first to offer assistance when problems arise anywhere in the world has left its citizens on their own in a war zone? Somehow, more than two dozen other countries managed to send planes, whether commercial or military, and bring their citizens safely back home, while the bureaucrats in Washington couldn’t manage to come through for the very people they supposedly represent.
It's been an insanely busy week for us at Amudim. Understanding the magnitude of the crisis, our team spent 80 straight hours organizing two charter flights to help at least some of the Americans stranded in Israel get back to their homes. While we are grateful to have been able to accommodate more than 700 people on those two flights, our hearts go out to nearly 7,000 others that we haven’t been able to help yet. Among those are no fewer than 200 people with serious medical conditions who have reached out to us within the last 24 hours, begging us for help; and while we were able to accommodate some of them, we see the pain and worry of those who are still waiting to get a flight home.
It isn’t just that there are still 2,000 New Yorkers and nearly 1,000 New Jerseyans who are trying to get back to the United States. There are actually more than 20,000 American citizens who have reached out to the federal government for help, and as of this writing, are still waiting for assistance.
For five days, Americans in Israel have watched other countries stepping up for their citizens, bringing in planes to take them back home. When the federal government finally announced on Thursday that they had plans to bring U.S. citizens home, everyone felt a sense of relief, until they read the fine print of the plan. No, the federal government had no intention of actually flying American citizens on to American soil – instead, people would be assigned to either a Frankfurt or Athens-bound flight or taken to Cyprus by boat, with no choice of destination allowed. In addition to still having to find their way home on their own from Frankfurt, Athens, or Cyprus, anyone who avails themselves of the Washington-arranged transportation is required to sign a document saying that they will reimburse the federal government for the cost of their travel.
Amidst all this craziness, there are people and entities who deserve to be recognized for going above and beyond as this saga continues to unfold. El Al worked with us hand in hand to make our charter flights happen, even delaying our Thursday afternoon charter flight by 90 minutes to ensure that every seat was filled. Councilwoman Inna Vernikov and Congressman Adriano Espaillat have both been indefatigable in their efforts to help their constituents (as well as many others) find their way home. And United States Customs and Border Patrol has been a shining example of what public service should be all about, as they assisted us with the myriad details of our evacuation flights. But the federal government, whose mission is to protect and serve its citizens, has failed catastrophically on this one.
It is almost laughable to think that Russia and Ukraine, two countries both experiencing wars of their own, still managed to fly their citizens home, while the powers that be in Washington have done nothing more than shrug their shoulders and offer empty promises. I urge everyone reading these words to call their elected officials – local, state, and federal – and demand action. And I am asking our friends in Washington, D.C. to find a way to move past whatever bureaucratic hurdles exist and to bring our friends and neighbors home.
Wake up, Washington. You’ve got a job to do.
And you need to do it now.
Each week, Amudim fields calls covering a wide range of crises and addressing various human concerns, including addiction, depression, abuse, health and domestic emergencies and many others. We track the calls and breakdown of issues for many reasons, foremost of which is to consistently improve and strengthen our knowledge and ability to address community’s needs.
Message received from passenger on Amudim Charter Flight
Amudim Charter Flight on the way to JFK
FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Rabbi Zvi Gluck helping are charter flight get through US Customs