Disaster in Nepal

Disaster in Nepal

It’s basically impossible to imagine the earthquake in Nepal.

To be honest, it’s basically impossible to imagine Nepal in the first, unshaken place – it’s so unimaginably old, so soaringly, inhospitably Himalayan, so un-Western, so overwhelmingly foreign, that it might as well be not only another continent but another planet. Another universe.

It is also impossible for us, living here in the solid east – yes, there can be earthquakes here too, we know that, but they’re infrequent and small. (Yes, we might be lulling ourselves with a false sense of security, at least according to the Internet, but even if our risks are more than zero they still are low.)

But the scope of the devastation is impossible to imagine. So far, more than 5,000 people are known to have died, with thousands more injured, many grievously. Estimates have the death toll rising to double that number, above 10,000. (For comparison, the population of Leonia is reported to be just above 9,000; there are slightly more than 8,000 people living in Oradell, and 5,300 in Englewood Cliffs.)

The infrastructure in Nepal, not robust in the first place, has been demolished, and its old places, the beautiful, mysterious old temples and monasteries that attract the tourists who give what little life the country’s economy has, have crumbled.

In many part of the country, there is no food, no medicine, no shelter, no aid, no hope.

It sounds like hell.

As they always do, Israelis have rushed to help.

Of course, many of them have been affected personally. Nepal is a well-known stop of young Israelis’ post-IDF tour; many were there, and many more have fond if foggy memories of it. As of Tuesday, more than 300 had been rescued and gone home, including 25 babies born to surrogate Nepalese mothers. But not all have been found, and some report that their situation, like the Nepalese among whom they are sheltering, is tenuous.

At the same time, the Israelis have sent help – huge planes full of medical personnel and supplies.

Of course, Israelis have been attacked for that – no matter what they do, they are attacked, it seems. Kenneth Roth, the indefatigably and it is fair to say inarguably Israel-hating head of Human Rights Watch, tweeted “Easier to address a far-away humanitarian disaster than the nearby one of Israel’s making in Gaza. End the blockade!”

Many internet commenters pointed out that his only response to the disaster in Nepal was the dig at Israel. It must be good, or at least easy, to live in a world so divided into good and bad that anything can be slotted into the prearranged categories.

Here, Jewish organizations also are rushing to help. The Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey is collecting funds – see the box on this page. The urge to help, not only to fix the world in the abstract but to feed, to clothe, to heal, is part of the Jewish DNA.

All we can do, from the other side of the world, is to pray for the victims, to donate money to help them, and to press for the science that can help predict such natural disasters and the engineering that can keep people who live in such places at least a little safer.-JP

Nepal Relief Fund

The Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey has opened up a Nepal emergency relief fund.

One hundred percent of donated funds will go directly to humanitarian aid. The federation’s president, Dr. Zvi Marans, said, “It’s at times like this that our shared commitment to tikkun olam, or repairing the world, finds its deepest expression.”

To donate to the fund, please go to