One day on this island seems like a few as many intense events follow one another closely.
This morning I said goodbye to one of the most amazing Jewish families I have ever met. They came all the way from San Francisco with 25 suitcases of kindness and their good hearts: hand warmers, chocolates, soap and blankets. Their generosity and kindness went beyond the donations as they were on site and on call to anything needed. They brought their teenage son and college daughter as the family bonds together over this important cause. At times I feel quite privileged being in this place where so many impressive people come together.
Family picture of the Jewish family
I departed Mytilini and headed to the north shore with the IsraAID doctor. It was a beautiful drive off the beaten path. Many boats arrive on this side of the island, as it is situated closer to Turkey than the south shore. Since the EU-Turkish agreement it has become harder for refugees to cross the border at this location. Also, refugees pass through Mytilini where they are housed in temporary camps called Stage 2 before heading to a bigger camp of Moria located near Mytilini. In Moria refugees officially register and are moved by ferry to Athens and from there to Germany. The registration at the camp in Mytilini is much closer to the port where the ferry departs which shortens the waiting time these refugees face.
Going to the north shore feels like going back in time as if 21st century life has not yet arrived in this sleepy town, as the small café I am writing these lines to you seems so welcoming and warm. Here, place many volunteers gather together every night in the local restaurant talking about the events of the morning, to plan better strategies to help out in the sea and to bring some joy to a very not joyful humanitarian situation.
I met the Israeli team that works at this location and was so surprised to find out how warmly Israelis are welcomed here. One of the defaults of this phenomenal NGO is the collaboration between Arabs and Jews among the IsraAID team. Speaking Arab and Hebrew and English and going back and forward was an amazing experience for me. I am very proud of this work of IsraAID that facilitates such needed coexistence.
As winter approaches and the temperatures are getting lower it is very apparent that refugee arrival is becoming more challenging. The sea was covered with meter high waves when three boats managed to land on shore. The first boat arrived in front of the first stage camp with minor incidents though the passengers were completely soaked up to their waist.