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Aid delivered to communities in Kentucky ravaged by tornadoes, led by Chabad of Kentucky with support from the Israeli government. Photo: Chabad of Kentucky / Twitter screenshot

Israel is on the ground helping Kentucky residents recover from tornado

Israel has become the only nation to send aid to U.S. tornado-ravaged Kentucky. It includes supplies and other relief plus hundreds of volunteers working on the ground this week.

The Israeli government, Jewish groups and an Israeli non-governmental humanitarian aid agency partnered together to serve the community, using many of the tips they learned from dealing with Palestinian missile attacks against Israeli towns.

Alex Gandler, Deputy Consul General of Israel’s mission to the Southeast in Atlanta, says that after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s pledge on Sunday to “offer any assistance needed,” it was decided to also donate pallets of water to those affected by the storms in western Kentucky. Water is still shut off to tens of thousands of residents across the state.

In Kentucky, which bore the brunt of the tornadoes that struck the central US Friday, at least 76 have lost their lives and more than 109 are reported as unaccounted for. The tornadoes destroyed hundreds of houses, leaving many of those who survived homeless, with some 28,000 homes and businesses still without power.

“We stand with our friends in Kentucky at this difficult time and will continue to offer any support that we can,” Gandler said in an emailed statement.

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Israel partnered with a Kentucky Jewish organization to deliver the water and additional supplies to three locations in Graves County. Gandler said the Israeli Consulate in Atlanta is also in contact with the Kentucky Governor’s office, the Kentucky Emergency Management and elected officials, to continue to provide support to hard-hit areas as needed.

“Since Shabbat ended and we heard the news of the terrible tornado in western Kentucky, we spent the next 20 hours loading a truck with what is most needed, including winter clothing, blankets and water,” Rabbi Shlomo Litvin of Chabad of the Bluegrass, a branch of Chabad of Kentucky, told The Algemeiner. “The Israeli government, which was one of the first to offer assistance to the state, has sponsored several pallets of water which were loaded on the truck and are being delivered to tornado-hit communities, including Mayfield.”

“Seeing the devastation in communities I know so well was heartbreaking, but the Kentucky resolve I know so well was evident,” Rabbi Litvin recounted.

The aid truck was coordinated by Project Friendship, Chabad of Kentucky’s social-services arm, which collects clothing, shoes and other necessities for those in need. Litvin added that former US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft and the University of Kentucky Athletic Department also helped in the coordination and funding of the aid effort.

On Tuesday, IsraAID announced that the Israeli non-governmental humanitarian aid agency has mobilized an emergency response team, expected to arrive in Kentucky in coming days to help with recovery and cleanup efforts. On the ground, IsraAid will join up with Team Rubicon, an international disaster response organization founded by US military veterans, and work closely with local authorities to assess the situation and identify communities and households in need of support.

“Our thoughts are with the communities across the affected area who have been left reeling by Friday’s tornadoes and with the families who have lost loved ones,” IsraAID’s CEO, Yotam Polizer, said. The agency has in recent years provided relief after several disasters in the US, including to communities affected by wildfires in California and hurricanes in Florida and Texas.

In addition, private Israeli companies are stepping in to provide much-needed electricity.

Following four weekend tornadoes that killed dozens and destroyed homes and businesses in western Kentucky, volunteers for Israeli humanitarian aid organization SmartAID are working with local partners to install a coordination center for emergency workers in hard-hit Mayfield and Benton.

The coordination center will include solar energy, smartphone connectivity, Wi-Fi and other technologies to help responders efficiently plan operations, said SmartAID founder and director Shachar Zahavi.

Most communities have been left without access to power, clean water, telecommunication, medical treatment and basic survival items.”

Another Israeli humanitarian aid organization, IsraAID, has mobilized an emergency response team to support recovery and cleanup efforts in affected Kentucky communities.

CEO Yotam Polizer says they will join with colleagues from Team Rubicon, a disaster response organization founded by US military veterans, and “work closely with local authorities to assess the situation and identify communities and households in need of support.”

–Metro Voice and wire services