Oct 30, 2023 - News

Miami-area nonprofit distributes aid amid Israel-Hamas war

A man in a blue button-down shirt gestures to a man in green military fatigues.

Michael Capponi in Ukraine in May. Photo by Zinchenko/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

A Doral-based nonprofit, Global Empowerment Mission (GEM), has been arranging aid for both Israelis and Palestinians affected by the Israel-Hamas war.

What's happening: GEM was present in Israel almost immediately after attacks by Hamas triggered a war earlier this month.

  • GEM set up a base outside of Tel Aviv and another in Egypt near the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, along with partners including SmartAid and BStrong.
  • The organization sent aid from Florida and worked with partners in Israel to distribute blankets, clothing, hygiene kits and food.
  • It also partnered with Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Emergency Management to give Visa cards and hygiene kits to Israelis who evacuated to Florida.
  • Aid for Palestinians was being held up until trucks were allowed to cross into Gaza.

Why it matters: GEM's founder, Michael Capponi, was a party promoter for decades, helping to develop Miami's worldwide reputation as a nightlife capital through his involvement with clubs like Warsaw, B.E.D. and LIV.

Catch up quick: At one point, Capponi was a homeless heroin addict, but in 1999, he galvanized nightclubs to help people affected by the Kosovo War and then again in 2010 following earthquakes in Haiti.

  • He has described returning to Miami from Haiti and feeling disillusioned by the party scene.
  • He turned his focus to humanitarian work and grew GEM into an organization with bases on six continents that can respond to disasters within 24 hours.

What they're saying: GEM insists it has trusted partners in Gaza and no aid will be diverted to Hamas.

  • "[We] recognize the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, and support equal measures of justice and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians alike," a statement on its website says.

What's next: GEM has partnered with Miami-area organizations including Shul of Bal Harbour and Skylake Synagogue to gather aid.

  • On its website, GEM is collecting funds that can be earmarked to help either Israelis or Palestinians, or go to a general fund.
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