October 7th, the day of the horrific massacre in the south of Israel, will be burned into the Israeli national consciousness, the Jewish psyche and the collective international perception as the tragedy of September 11, has changed the American nation forever. On that cursed day, a few weeks ago, entire families were brutally murdered, women, men and children. Young girls and boys were tortured and slaughtered in front of their parents. Hundreds of others, including babies and women, were kidnapped and taken captive by the barbarian attackers, which President Biden compared to, IS (Islamic state). Some of the attackers who were captured admitted in their investigations that the conduct of Hamas was even more brutal than the one of the notorious Islamic organizations.
The failure of the civil public system – the community’s response
After the events of that Black Saturday, while hundreds of thousands of reservists mobilized for the defense of the country, the citizens of Israel faced public services that were overwhelmed and completely dysfunctional.
Beyond the feeling of grief and pain for the murdered and abducted, immediate needs that were required for the survivors from the south, and later, for the evacuees of the northern region of Israel, remained unanswered. The disappointment from the weakness of the state system, was quickly translated into action by the agile, cross- sector organization of the civil community in Israel and beyond in favor of effective solutions for the various needs.
The Israelis, who were divided in an internal struggle that tore apart Israeli society from the inside, understood the sense of emergency, put the political differences aside and acted as one. Beyond the residents of Israel, many Israelis abroad and friends of Israel around the world, with an emphasis on the United States, rallied to help Israel in this difficult time. The difficulty faced by many of the initiatives focused on the lack of a regulated legal, financial, and operational framework.
This kind of framework would allow aid to be transferred quickly and efficiently, while skipping the bureaucratic hurdles that were faced, both in Israel and in the USA, among the parties who wanted to extend aid to those who needed it.
A mechanism for emergency donations
Veteran and large aid organizations, such as the JNF, the National Fund for Israel and others, immediately stepped up to assist. These bodies function like a large army, and naturally have to deal with a cumbersome and expensive bureaucracy. This makes it difficult to manage fast processes and is also reflected in high overhead expenses to finance the mechanism that cuts into donations on their way to the supported entities.
Therefore, central aid organizations were looking for a fast and efficient route for receiving and using donations. This route ideally should combine a financial, legal and operational solution and provide approvals for tax deduction both in Israel and in the US. Above all, there is a need of a platform that is not slowed down by red tape and operates in the field of philanthropy as a quick response, efficient commando unit.
This void is quickly being filled by the Merit Spread Foundation, which is operated by a dedicated team, a “philanthropy commando”, founded by experienced financier Alon Tal. Merit Spread provides an accurate response to the growing needs – it is registered as a non-profit organization active in the USA as a 501(c3) and in Israel as a public benefit company which is recognized for tax purposes (for donors, section 46).
Merit Spread’s mandate allows to carry out activity for a wide variety of purposes, such as education, health, aid to the needy, advocacy and more. Similar to longstanding, respected organizations such as JNF, Merit Spread serves as a holistic organization for philanthropic activities. It works in collaboration with specialized associations and transfers to them donations designated by the donors, as are done by leading players in the US financial arena such as Fidelity and Vanguard, which operate the DAF-Donor Advised Fund.
Above all, Merit Spread advocates the principle of “zero overheads” for donors, in order to realize 100% of the donations for the purpose for which they were donated. To this end, all overhead costs are fully contributed by the investment funds group Alpha, led by the founder of Merit Spread, Alon Tal. In addition to saving overhead costs, for certain purposes, the Alpha Group commits to a Matching program which increases the amount of donated funds, beyond the amount allocated by the donor.
The purpose of this effective mechanism, especially these days, is to provide a framework for large family funds that function as an endowment. In the current state of emergency, and the with the view of the Zionist goals that Merit Spread adheres to, the mechanism is operated in the format of an emergency situation center that provides an expedited response to immediate needs. As previously mentioned, without any overheads.
This platform was established with the strict guidance of Adv. Ariel Nissim, who has a profound and extensive experience in the field of philanthropy, and fulfilled senior positions in the Israeli Ministry of Justice.
Cooperation for the benefit of Israel
There are several significant initiatives and organizations operating within the framework of Merit Spread. For example, the organization of the families for the return of the kidnapped and the missing, which was established with the help of leading figures in the fields of security, communications, diplomacy and economy.
The families form this organization in order to act on local and international levels to bring about the speedy return of the abducted and missing from Hamas captivity. Another initiative is one that brings together senior members of the Israeli venture capital and high-tech community that operates to meet civil urgent needs.
Another example of an initiative adopted by Merit Spread is Danny’s horse farm, which treats, among others, posttraumatic combat soldiers and nowadays, after the events of October 7, children, women and men, wounded and survivors. As a routine, the farm provides treatment to about a thousand patients a week. Now, the demand for the unique treatment that the farm provides is growing day by day.
There is interactive support between different organizations operating within the framework of Merit Spread. An example is crowdfunding through the sale of hundreds of thousands of disc chains calling for the return of the abducted, where revenues are transferred, in full, through Merit Spread, to the headquarters of the abducted and missing for their activity.
While most of the activities in the weeks after the massacre were aimed at providing an immediate response to the affected population and regrouping for the continuation of the state of emergency in Israel, the demand for solutions for long-term assistance is increasing. significant philanthropists see long-term aid as a worthy goal after providing immediate help to citizens in need. One such vital initiative is a fund to help orphans of the war. Dozens of children lost their parents in the terrorists’ attack.
The team of Merit Spread established an endowment, which will support and help those children for many years. The fund will operate in a similar way to the endowments of the leading universities in the US, the fruits of which have been used by the various institutions for many years and reduce the need for fundraising on an ongoing basis. The orphans’ fund, to which anyone who identifies with his worthy cause is invited to join, will distribute aid for purposes such as education and mental support. The funds will be distributed according to defined criteria, determined by a donation committee dedicated to the subject, which will operate along the principle of maximizing the efficiency of the donation without overheads for the donor.