Canadian Jew helps war-torn Libyan communities

Canadian Jewish News reports on one businessman’s initiative to help his fellow Libyan Jews in war-ravaged northern Israel (with thanks: Albert):

TEL AVIV — When prominent Toronto Jewish community member Walter Arbib learned of the damages to Israel’s northern communities during the Israeli/Hezbollah war, he jumped to help.

“I was mostly concerned about the children in the Libyan settlements of Moshav Dalton and Moshav Alma, which are right on the Lebanese border,” says Arbib, a Jew of Libyan descent, and CEO of the Skylink Group.

“I wanted to do whatever I could to help. I think it’s important for all Jews around the world to help Israel, not just during its times of need, but always. Even if you have to stretch yourself to help, it’s something you simply have to do.”

Israeli Jews of Libyan ancestry number around 100,000 in Israel. According to Arbib, the Libyan Jewish community in Toronto is very small, totalling only around 25 people.

This is one reason, he says, that his ties to the larger Israeli community are so strong. “We have to stick together,” says Arbib, who has long been involved in Jewish Libyan causes through the World Organization of Libyan Jews.

With help from the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the UJA in Israel, Arbib was able to aid Israel’s Libyan communities. “

In a matter of weeks, he managed to get bomb-shelter kindergarten facilities on two moshavim – which each service an estimated 120 kids – painted and furnished, and set up with air conditioning, televisions, games and toys.

“I am amazed at how much faster private initiatives can move,” says Arbib.

Arbib also donated a van to the communities to help them with transporting children to and from the kindergartens; subsidized a trip for 65 children from the communities to spend two weeks touring around Israel’s central and southern regions, to give them a break from the chaos at home; bought school uniforms and supplies for 100 Ethiopian children in a neighbouring community in preparation for the new school year; and distributed 300 iPods to soldiers who were stationed in Lebanon.

It was these soldiers who honoured Arbib on Sept. 7, at the Center for the Heritage of Libyan Jews in Or Yehuda, a suburb of Tel Aviv. There, with Likud Knesset member Silvan Shalom and the commanding officer of the Southern District of the Israeli Police, Uri Bar-Lev, attending, the soldiers presented Arbib with a plaque to thank him for his support during the war. (…)

Arbib recently donated some 100,000 shekels (about $23,000) to refurbish a wing of the museum and to create a special exhibition there about Libyan Jewry.(…)

Afterward, Arbib and his entourage headed to the two moshavim in the north. “It was surprising and terrible to see the damages to the northern part of Israel,” he says. They saw many buildings reduced to rubble and many fallen trees.

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