Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri has approved a plan to absorb approximately 100 orphaned Syrian children who have survived the fighting in their war-torn country and are in desperate need of warm homes to provide care and rehabilitation.

Despite the fact that Israel and Syria have no diplomatic relations, Deri authorized the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority last week to begin contacting relevant agencies to facilitate the absorption of children who have survived the fighting. They are to be integrated into Arab-Israeli families.

“The situation in Syria is very harsh. Civilians have been slaughtered for years only a few dozen kilometers from Israel,” said Deri. “I have decided to order professionals in my ministry to work toward absorbing children on humanitarian grounds in order to render assistance and rescue 100 of them from the horrors and afford them good and normal lives in Israel.”

A Syrian girl says goodbye to her Israeli caregivers at Rambam Health Care Campus. Photo courtesy
A Syrian girl says goodbye to her Israeli caregivers at Rambam Health Care Campus. Photo courtesy

According to media reports, the children – and possibly some of their immediate relatives — will receive temporary resident status and could become permanent residents after four years.

An estimated half a million Syrians have been killed and several million displaced in the Syrian civil war raging just across the border from the Jewish state for nearly six years.

The Israeli government, military and various humanitarian groups have coordinated efforts to aid Syrian victims in many ways.

Since February 2013, some 2,500 Syrian children, women and men who were able to reach the border have been transported by the Israelis to receive free medical care at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Ziv Medical Center in Safed, Medical Center of the Galilee in Nahariya, and Poriah Hospital near Tiberias.

An injured civilian from the civil war in Syria being transferred to Ziv Medical Center in Israel. Photo by Simon Haddad/Ziv Medical Center
An injured civilian from the civil war in Syria being transferred to Ziv Medical Center in Israel. Photo by Simon Haddad/Ziv Medical Center

Ziv Medical Center, which has treated nearly 1,000 Syrian casualties, even launched a fundraising drive for Syrian patients’ treatment and repatriation to Syria. The humanitarian aid extends to making sure they have clean clothes to wear, toiletries, medicines, books and toys.

“Our hearts have broken many times upon hearing about the suffering of these Syrian children, who often have lost one or both parents to the civil war,” Dr. Michael Harari, a pediatrician at Ziv Medical Center, tells ISRAEL21c.

“When a child arrives without parents, we try to bunk them in a room with another Syrian patient who came with a grandmother or mother so that they can act as an adoptive guardian and help the orphan feel less alone in the world. The humanitarian aid that we give helps the Syrians but it also helps us because it is important that each person be able to reach out and help a neighbor in distress,” Harari says.

Non-governmental organizations working over the years to bring supplies and other forms of assistance to Syrian civilians include Israeli Flying AidAmaliahIL4Syrians, Hanoar Haoved VeHalomed Youth Movement and Dror Israel.

Amaliah founder Moti Kahana, who grew up in an orphanage in Israel, expressed his support for the plan to bring in Syrian orphans. “Amaliah will absolutely help fund and coordinate this operation,” he said, adding that his organization’s main focus is setting up safe zones inside Syria and sending busloads of children for medical care in Israel.

In December 2016, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry to expand channels for medical assistance for Syrian non-combatants, especially those wounded in the besieged city of Aleppo.

Just Beyond Our Border - Israelis for the Syrian Children
Just Beyond Our Border – Israelis for the Syrian Children

In the past couple of months, more than 7,100 Israelis contributed ₪1,336,893 (approximately $335,000) toward food, medicine and equipment for the winter in a grassroots fundraising campaign entitled “Just Beyond Our Border – Israelis for the Syrian Children.”

Aboud Dandachi, a Syrian Sunni Muslim now living in Istanbul, created a website in late 2015 dedicated to the Israeli and Jewish organizations and individuals helping Syrian refugees. These include organizations such as IsraAID and iAID, which send volunteers and supplies to help Syrian refugees arriving in Greece and other European countries.

Viva Sarah Press contributed to this report.