Over half a million refugees fleeing Syria's ongoing civil war have flooded into northern Jordan over the past year. Nearly half of them are living in a large UN refugee camp, but the rest are relying on care from various NGOs, including at least one from Israel.
Among the organizations funding and distributing physical and emotional aid to the hundreds of thousands of Syrians is IsraAid, an Israeli humanitarian group with years of experience in Africa and other regions.
In Jordan, the group is buying and putting together large sacks of essential goods that are passed out to Syrian refugees daily. But, they must do so discretely.
Both IsraAid and its Jordanian partners are careful to remove any labeling that would identify the aid packages as coming from or being paid for by Israelis. With Syria still officially at war with Israel, it is a precautionary step organizers feel is necessary to maintain order and security in the refugee areas.
"We don’t announce with trumpets that we’re Israeli,” one of the IsraAid workers told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “There’s no need for that. Once you let that cat out of the bag, everything starts to blow up."
Still, one of the aims of IsraAid is to demonstrate that the Jewish state is not the ruthless oppressor it is so often portrayed as in the media.
"My main agenda is to put Israelis on the ground around the world and show the world that Israel cares about them," explained IsraAid founding director Shachar Zahavi.
Indeed, many Israeli humanitarian organizations like IsraAid are active in the Middle East, and the recipients of their assistance often discover that the group is from Israel. More often than not, the beneficiaries might be surprised at receiving help from Israeli Jews, but they are appreciative, too.