To The Rescue
srael long has drawn the ire of Zionism-bashers for
defending itself against terror precipitated by Hezbollah
in Lebanon to the north and llamas in Gaza to the south.
The Jewish state is reviled by much of the world for just exist-
ing, yet is always on the frontlines when brainpower, willpow-
er and soldiers of peace are needed in catastrophic situations
around the globe.
It's no surprise that Israel's full-court response to the Jan.
12 earthquake in Haiti generated few headlines at first. Israel
fails miserably at PR when compared to the Arab world.
Despite facing the constant threat of war and terror aimed
at its destruction, Israel has been one
of the most generous givers of aid and
assistance at international disaster
sites; just ask Mexico (1985), Turkey
(1991) or Southeast Asia (2004).
Israel's compassionate toehold in
Haiti serves as another example of how
Israelis are always there, no matter how
tough the times for either themselves
or the people they are striving to help.
Social justice is at the core of what
Israel is about.
Fast And Good
In Haiti, a poor island nation of 9 million people, the tremor
killed 200,000, left 2 million homeless, caused 250,000 to seek
medical care and brought in 10,000 international peacekeep-
ers. Food, water, shelter and sanitation were at a premium.
Israel was at the forefront of organized and efficient relief.
Within three days of the disaster, it sent a delegation of medi-
cal professionals, rescue specialists and forensics experts. In
Port-au-Prince, the Israel Defense Forces set up a Home Front
Command field hospital where the IDF Medical Corps treated
1,000 patients, performed 300 successful surgeries and deliv-
ered 16 babies. IsraeAid (the Israel Forum for International
Humanitarian Aid) and Israel's ZAKA volunter rescue and
recovery organization also sprang forth to serve the ravaged
Caribbean country. With a smooth handoff to U.S. and other
relief teams, the Israeli delegation has returned home.
By last week, the IDF had gone high tech, setting up a $2
million satellite-based communications system enabling doc-
tors at the field hospital to perform surgery via videoconfer-
encing with surgeons at Israeli hospitals.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his nation's
swift reaction to Haiti's plight "expresses the deep values that
have characterized the Jewish people and the State of Israel
That's an understatement.
Fittingly, on Jan. 17, a 25-year-old Haitian woman gave birth
to a son at the IDF field hospital. In gratitude, she named her
son Israel. He was one of five births during the first five days of
the crisis; a premature baby weighed 3.9 pounds.
Israeli rescue workers pulled at least 70 people from
beneath the rubble, including a baby, a local official and sev-
eral students buried under the ruins of a Port-au-Prince uni-
versity. In many cases, Israeli relief teams answered the cries
for help that local authorities gave up on.
Because of the advanced medical equipment at the IDF
field hospital, the United Nations coordinator on site sent
doctors and nurses from elsewhere to join the Israeli medi-
cal staff. CBS News called the IDF facility the "Rolls Royce of
Medicine in Haiti."
The mother of this Port-au-Prince boy was so appreciative
of the care she got at the Israeli field hospital in Haiti, she
named her newborn Israel.
The death and devastation in Haiti is daunting to say the least.
At University Hospital in Port-au-Prince, drugs, beds, medi-
cal equipment and basic supplies like needles, bandages and
pints of blood were initially in short supply. Even after Magen
David Adorn workers reinforced the U.S. Army-secured hos-
pital and expanded the emergency room to accommodate
American and Israeli paramedics and medics, locals were still
angry about treatment delays. Such is the human condition in
a temper-torn and beaten environment.
Rabbi Benjamin Blech's Aish HaTorah Resources assess-
ment of why Israel embraced Haiti so empathetically was
interesting. Citing Moses' biblical story, Blech wrote: "The
defining characteristic of greatness: the willingness to inter-
cede when witness to the difficulties faced by others."
The professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University in New York
went on to praise Jews who counter religious hatred in all its
ugly guises and Jews from different backgrounds who learn to
live in harmony.
"But what thrills me more than anything:' Blech concluded,
"is when I learn that inevitably one of the very first nations to
respond to the human needs of a disaster, such as an earth-
quake in Haiti, is the State of Israel. That is what reassures
me that we have never lost that trait which made Moses so
beloved to God — and which enables us to continue to fulfill
our mission of tikkun olam, repairing the world?'
Whether the trigger is a tsunami, a flood, a terror attack, an
earthquake or other traumatic moments, Israel stands ready
to engage its humanitarian spirit and training.
It doesn't matter if the outreach is appreciated or acknowl-
edged. What matters is that such good will as a nation is the
right thing to do. The action certainly rejects the deception,
myths and violence foisted upon Israel by Jew-haters.
How inspiring that Israel is so quick and gracious when it
comes to disaster relief in Haiti and other places of turmoil.
Remember: Not a day goes by when our ancestral Jewish
homeland must guard against danger inflicted by neighbors
convinced that Zionism is at the root of all evil. O
Barbara Hertsberg and a
JARC staff per son recently
took a bus trip to Ohio to
reconnect with a cousin
Barbara hadn't seen in 25
years. There she met many
other new-found relatives.
The reunion was so much
tun. Barbara's cousin is
planning a trip to Michigan
later this year.
Your support of JARC will
help Barbara and others
to live meaningful and
Your support will help
Haiti relief: American Jewish Joint Distribution Commitee
(www.jdc.org), Chabad (www.chabadhaitireliefcom), Mazon:
A Jewish Response to Hunger (www.mazon.org).
Is Israel underappreciated
on a global scale?
z Z Do American Jews take
0. Israelis for granted?
January 28 • 2010