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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

HUMANITARIAN AID: Muslims, Jews, Mormons and other faiths contribute cash and supplies.

10:00 PM PDT on Tuesday, August 8, 2006

By BETTYE WELLS MILLER
The Press-Enterprise


Inland residents watching the escalating humanitarian crisis in the Middle East are raising money for international relief agencies that still operate in Lebanese and Israeli communities devastated by war.

Southern California Muslims and Mormons have contributed money or emergency supplies.

Cargo containers carrying 85 tons of aid -- including medical supplies, hygiene kits, powdered milk, baby formula and hand soap -- arrived in the port of Beirut over the weekend in a joint relief effort of Islamic Relief USA and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Church members assembled the supplies, which were shipped from Salt Lake City last week. Islamic Relief USA, based in Buena Park, paid shipping costs and is organizing distribution in southern Lebanon through the Hariri Foundation, a Lebanese development and education organization, spokesman Mostafa Mahboob said.

"The roads are a major problem," he said. "It's really hard to deliver and is getting more difficult."

Islamic Relief provides humanitarian aid to people of all faiths, Mahboob said. That is one reason the three-year-old partnership with the LDS church has worked.

"When it comes to aid work we both understand it's our job to help people," he said. "No matter who they are or where they are."

Islamic Relief also is delivering aid to civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, Mahboob said.

Mormons in the United States are sending aid to Israel as well, said Keith Atkinson, a church spokesman in Los Angeles.

"We're willing to work with anyone," he said. "We've been doing this since the 1980s Ethiopian famine when we partnered with Catholic Relief and the American Red Cross. Islamic Relief has proved to be a very reliable partner. They get aid to people quickly with very little red tape."

Many Jewish congregations are encouraging their members to support relief work in Israel, where some northern communities have been bombarded almost daily by Hezbollah rockets.

Rabbi Schmuel Fuss, a Hasidic rabbi in Riverside, said the Chabad Jewish Community Center is encouraging donations to support Chabad soup kitchens in Israel.

"Chabad has expanded soup kitchens to people in shelters," he said. "Many of our volunteers have been hit by shrapnel or injured driving around. It's absolute self-sacrifice to drive around these cities in northern Israel. ... War is not good for anybody."

At Temple Emanu El in San Bernardino and Congregation Beth Shalom in Corona, members have been encouraged to support various Jewish relief organizations.

Temple Beth El in Riverside decided this month to allocate all donations to the social action fund through the High Holy Days next month to the Union for Reform Judaism's Israel Emergency Fund, said Rabbi Yitzchak J. Miller.

In Beirut, David Snyder of Catholic Relief Services said the need food, water, medicine, clothing and fuel is critical.

Fuel shortages threaten to choke the country, Snyder wrote.

"Hospitals in the southern suburbs of Beirut report only enough fuel for five to seven days - fuel on which they are dependent to run their generators, as electricity is sporadic," he said. "With no electricity the life-support systems of the hospital, along with the refrigeration and other critical utilities, will cease. If that happens, the crisis in Lebanon will compound exponentially overnight."

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