Muslims and Jews are collecting money and supplies to send to their respective populations in war-torn Lebanon and Israel.

In Tampa and nationwide, beginning today, mosques are asking donors to drop off flour, diapers and water purifying tablets for suffering families overseas.

The Tampa Jewish Federation has started its humanitarian efforts, sending $50,000 to help families forced to leave their homes in Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city.

The federation, in collaboration with the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, is aiming to raise $18 million nationally for the effort, said Daniel Staffenberg, chief development officer for the Tampa Jewish Federation.

What started as a military skirmish between Hezbollah and the Israelis has escalated to a weeks-long conflict despite international intervention. With the destruction of apartment buildings, houses and infrastructure, Lebanese and Israeli civilians have fled Beirut and Haifa.

With no signs of a cease-fire, the number of those affected is growing.

With Friday being the day of prayer for Muslims, they are asking people to drop off supplies at the mosques, said Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesman Ahmed Bedier. The Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area and Islamic Community of Tampa are heading up collections.

Supplies will be shipped to Life for Relief & Development in Michigan. The organization will distribute the supplies to the Lebanese and Palestinians, Bedier said.

On Thursday, Tampa Muslims returned from Washington, where they pleaded with politicians for a cease-fire. Pilar Saad, a Tampa woman who had to be evacuated from a Lebanon vacation, gave politicians an account of the arduous conditions civilians faced.

“There’s a lot of suffering,” Bedier said. The local elected officials “were receptive. It was helpful to have an evacuee speak to them.”


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