For the first time since the Syrian civil war broke out over two years ago, Jewish aid groups are about to help its refugees.
A coalition of humanitarian organisations headed by the Jewish Distribution Committee (JDC) is planning to finance welfare programmes for children in the refugee camp of Zaatari in Jordan.
The coalition of 14 Jewish groups, which are part of the larger Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief based in New York, have been looking for an opportunity to help the Syrian refugees, over a million of whom have left their country since the fighting broke out.
An early inquiry about helping refugees along Syria’s northern borders was put to the Turkish government, but rebuffed. The Turks have so far prevented any international organisation from helping deal with the refugees in their territory.
The coalition instead is seeking to work in Jordan, where numerous international aid groups are already working with the Jordanian government to help the estimated 350,000 Syrian refugees currently in the kingdom.
The coalition has already raised funds for a relief programme, and the first stage will be to finance work of NGOs already working in Jordan. They have not, however, ruled out launching their own programme. The JDC has worked in the past with Syrian citizens, though they were Jews seeking to leave Syria. The latest project is part of a trend among Jewish organisations to fund and undertake non-sectarian relief work throughout the developing world.
The first project to be funded is expected to be a children’s welfare programme in the largest Syrian refugee camp, Zaatari in northern Jordan, where around 150,000 Syrian refugees are currently sheltering.
While many of the groups involved have offices and projects in Israel, the effort will be run from New York so as not to cause any diplomatic problems or unease with the Syrian citizens who see Israel as an enemy state.
Although there was no official response from JDC, officials in the organisation in both Jerusalem and New York confirmed that cash will be allocated to a Syrian refugee programme in the next few weeks.