Gal Lusky, the founder of Israeli Flying Aid (IFA), has brought humanitarian help into some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones.
Lusky, who was born on Kibbutz Hokok in northern Israel, committed herself to a career in emergency aid after her brother was severely wounded in 1992 during his military service. As her brother recovered, it dawned on her how lucky they were to have access to Israeli medical facilities and skilled doctors – and she wanted to share these resources with the world.
As we approach Israel’s 75th anniversary, we sat down with Gal Lusky to discuss her work, and her hopes for her country’s future.
Gal Lusky founded Israeli Flying Aid to fill a gap. While the Israeli government provides aid to millions across the globe, they’re limited by which countries they have diplomatic relations with. “When there are massive disasters like earthquakes in Haiti or Turkey, of course, Israel is there. That’s not what we were founded to do. What we specialize at is operating in complex areas – either in enemy countries to Israel, or places that ban aid from from Israel within their own communities,’ Lusky explains.
Israeli Flying Aid assists survivors of natural disasters and human conflict in the world’s most dangerous regions. The complexity of most humanitarian aid missions means that they are often limited in their response, constrained by bureaucracy, and reliant on the host country, which itself may also be entangled with corruption. As a consequence, victims of crises are denied access to life-giving relief.
According to the United Nations, aid can only enter a sovereign country with the approval of the local regime, The UN is obliged to pass all aid to the hands of the government or the regime only and is forbidden from giving aid to any third parties, and prevention of aid and selective delivery of aid is not considered to be a crime.
Lusky sees these regulations as an injustice. “My philosophy is that in places where law clashes with justice – justice prevails,” Lusky says.
IFA changes the face of emergency disaster relief by enabling local citizens to become agents of change in their communities by providing the needed aid. By teaching and training locals in high-risk areas as well as training other aid organizations of similar interest, Lusky’s work reframes the role and position of humanitarian aid. She is building a coalition of rescue teams devoted to saving lives and cutting the often detrimental link between government interests, supplies and human capital.
“Nobody asks permission to kill; we don’t ask permission to save lives,” she says.
Growing up on a Kibbutz greatly informed who Lusky is today, and the line of work she has found herself in. “I had a fantastic childhood and gained a lot of my skills, trust and independence because of the kibbutz structure,” she says. “My generation of Kibbutzniks is resilient, emotional, and creative. We had to sort out our own lives, friendships, and values.”
Lusky says that IFA team members represent the heart of Israeli society, and believe in the sanctity of human life and dignity, as reflected in Jewish Halacha. Their website reads: “Devote yourself to justice, aid the wronged, uphold the rights of the orphan, defend the cause of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:16-17)
When asked what she’s most proud of in Israel today, as the country approaches its 75th anniversary, she noted her belief in the fact that the vast majority of Israelis are committed to doing what’s right. “The problem is that we have a lot of politicians – but not a lot of leadership,” she says. “But from the establishment of the country to now, the core values of society remain nearly intact.”
The volunteers she works with – who she sees as the heart of what Israel stands for – give her a great deal of hope for the future of the country.
To learn more about Gal Lusky and Israeli Flying Aid, visit their website [warning: graphic imagery].