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Paras Indonesia, 01, 25 2006 @ 01:31 pm

Jewish Group Thanked For Help In Aceh

Posted by: Roy Tupai

Despite Indonesia's refusal to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, officials in staunchly Islamic Aceh province have reportedly honored a Jewish group for its tsunami relief assistance.

A report by international Jewish news service JTA said the mayor of Banda Aceh city and a regional official on Monday (23/1/06) presented awards to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) for its tsunami relief efforts.

The report said JDC has so far spent $2 million for Indonesian victims of the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people.

JDC's honorary executive vice president Michael Schneider told JTA that his group had concentrated its work on improving refugee camps by providing mattresses, covered playgrounds, school uniforms and equipment, and electricity for 20,000 people.

He said JDC had also improved water supplies by drilling five deep-water wells. The report said about 60,000 people have their water provided by JDC.

Schneider said JDC is building a model village of 100 houses, intended to serve as a prototype when the government decides to build new housing. The group has built a mosque to serve the refugees as a symbol of inter-religious friendship, he said.

"We are in Indonesia first and foremost to help people who suffered from the tsunami, but it's also an opportunity to build bridges of friendship and respect between Muslims and Jews," he was quoted as saying by JTA.

JDC, which raised donations of $18 million for tsunami relief, is also helping to provide assistance in Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

The group is working in Aceh with the Dwiyuna Jaya Foundation.

While JDC is a US-based organization, there has also been Israeli aid for Aceh. In January 2005, an El Al plane flew 75 tons of emergency supplies donated by Israeli organizations and companies to Indonesia.

Israeli Foreign Ministry director general Ron Prosor, who joined the flight, said his country's aid for Indonesia was the first of its kind due to the absence of formal relations between the two nations.

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