From the Children of Watari, To the Children of Israel


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July 22, 2013

TEL AVIV– Today, during the Tel Aviv Children Festival in Tel Aviv, works of origami from Japan were displayed in the Cinematheque, ahead of the special Focus on the Far East program.

These origami pieces, donated to the festival with the assistance of IsraAID, were prepared by survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan’s northern Tohoku region. It’s a small gift, sent by the citizens of the small town of Watari as symbol of the special relationship shared between Israel and Japan, and the aid this small town, and Tohoku as whole , have received from the organization since the Tsunami over 2 years ago.

On March 11th 2011, Japan was hit by the most powerful earthquake (9.0 Richter scale) ever known to have shook the peninsula. Following the earthquake, a large Tsunami with waves over 40.5 meters high (133 ft) devastated Japan’s eastern coast, damaging more than 500,000 buildings, and leaving 30,000 dead and 250,000 homeless in its wake. The earthquake also caused serious damage to the nuclear plant in Fukushima, resulting in a dangerous nuclear radioactive leak.

The tsunami ripped through the small coastal town of Watari in Miyagi prefecture, and the lives of its 30,000 inhabitants were changed forever. More than 300 people died in the Tsunami, and over 8,000 (27% of total inhabitants) were left homeless. The first IsraAID team arrived in Japan less than 4 days after the disaster, and began to distribute emergency supplies to shelters and create child-friendly spaces for the survivors. After a month, the organization organized its first psychosocial activity in a Watari shelter, and Japan IsraAID Support Program (JISP) was born.

The JISP program aims to develop local economic and psycho-social capacities, and its focus is on survivors from 8 cities in the Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, with an emphasis on youth, children and the elderly.

To date, the program has reached over 30,000 people with activities in over 10 cities. For more information on IsraAID’s JISP program, please visit the Japan Project Page.