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Joy Eliahu, the 31 year old daughter of an Iraqi Jewish family who immigrated to London a year before her birth, is an Israeli citizen and a licensed lawyer specialising in European and International Law.

Since last September Joy has been living in Kosovo as the Red Cross representative. Her nights are spent in a modest room in a bomb-wrecked neighbourhood, her days bearing the weight of human misery. Joy is the first (and so far only) Israeli to serve as a representative for the International Red Cross, the neutral Swiss humanitarian aid organisation established in 1863. Joy was relaxing in front of her TV after an exhausting, productive day when she chanced across a documentary about Kosovo. She contacted the Red Cross about doing volunteer work with the Kosovar refugees who were arriving in Britain. A few months later she contacted them again about becoming their representative in Kosovo. This entailed a series of interviews and a five week training course in Geneva. "They teach you about reuniting families, caring for prisoners, staying neutral, tracking down missing persons, keeping track of the people held in prison monitoring the adherence to the various Geneva conventions" she says. The goal is to provide humanitarian aid without any finger-pointing and above all protect the minorities.

Joy is not afraid of living on her own in such a dangerous area. She is protected by an unarmed Albanian guard. Generally the workers are treated very well. However, the place is very sad; everything is in ruins. The power and water supply often break down and generally there is nothing to do.

The neutrality of the International Red Cross requires that Joy keeps all information she receives strictly confidential which makes it very hard at times not to be able to share her experiences.

She had gotten used to, she says, taking bodies across the border in her car - her perspective has definitely changed.

She is scheduled to spend until September 2000 in Kosovo and hopes to continue working for the International Red Cross, perhaps in another country.

Joy sees her Judaism as one source of her altruism - she learnt about the Holocaust in High School where she volunteered to help survivors in Jewish nursing homes.

She believes that Judaism means being able to identify with people's suffering - "I hear stories about the Holocaust and wonder why people did nothing to prevent it. I put myself in their place and say: I won't be that way."

Abridged from Ha'aretz Magazine



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