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ISRAEL: Sending soldiers of peace to Haiti

Last week, the Israeli army hosted the first international emergency response conference in Israel. Two hundred participants from 35 countries attended the conference to discuss new initiatives in response and preparedness for emergency situations of all kinds. The manager of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team, Dr. Kristi Koenig, was among them. 

Col. Ariel Bar, the Home Front Command's chief medical officer, had said after the conference that one area in which they hoped to learn from the experience of other countries was natural disasters and earthquakes.

Experience came fast -- though not in Israel.

When devastation struck Haiti, Israel quickly dispatched its professional military relief team including evacuation and recovery experts aided by dogs from the Oketz ("Sting") canine unit and an extensive medical delegation that quickly deployed its fully operational field hospital in the soccer field of Port-au-Prince -- complete with surgeons and all, and a technical division that set up a communications and Internet network for coordination and video-conferencing with medical colleagues back home. The international press is also using the IDF network, as most other communications are down.

The doctors' main problem is fatigue; they're working around the clock, and surgeons are rotating shifts in the operating room headed by the chief surgeon on the site, Ofer Merin. Besides emergency operations and urgent medicine, they're handling deliveries, gunshot wounds and other injuries with no remaining medical help to turn to. Once they assess the situation, another air force plane will be delivering what they need to sustain a two-week deployment. The window of time for recovering survivors is rapidly closing; the delegation says it will stop searching for survivors Monday and concentrate on the medical efforts, assistance to other delegations and examining how Israel may learn from this for the future. Meanwhile, a group of 90 doctors and nurses from Los Angeles have asked to volunteer at the Israeli field hospital, Israel radio reported.

Follow the IDF mission in Haiti on twitter here: and videos from Haiti here:

Gilles, a 58-year-old tax authority employee, was trapped under the ruins of the building where he worked. He was there for nearly four days. He had a cellphone, and a text message saying he was alive was conveyed to the Israeli home front command team, which spent seven hours extracting him. See his dramatic rescue here:

Also on the site are ZAKA, a Jewish rescue and disaster-response team, who arrived directly from attending to a heliocpter crash in Mexico that killed Moshe Saba, a member of the Jewish community there and one of Mexico's wealthiest families. The ZAKA teams of ultraorthodox Jews have much experience from the most gruesome of suicide bombings in Israel but say the situation in Haiti is sheer hell. They worked straight through the Sabbath too, some saying it was an honor to violate the holy day in order to save human lives. They did break briefly to welcome the Sabbath with wine and bread -- and also with representatives from Egypt and Qatar. Disaster breeds unexpected closeness sometimes. The delegation rescued eight students trapped under the ruins of the university for 38 hours. See their videos from Haiti here: (including a brief Hava Nagila break for the soul).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened Sunday's weekly Cabinet meeting with a few words about the "horrific tragedy" that took place in Haiti. "I hope the team saves lives and that Haiti recovers from this awful tragedy," he said, adding that Israel was a small country but one with a big heart and the Jewish ethic of extending help, as it has done before when disasters struck other countries. But some in the press were critical, like Sever Plocker, here.

The Ministry of Education has decided to dedicate an online lesson to schools on the disaster in Haiti, and one religious school has announced it will hold a special prayer Monday. In the meanwhile, many Israeli humanitarian, medical and aid NGOs are organizing donations for Haiti, such as Israeli Flying Aid, Magen David Adom, Lions, and Natan.  

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

Comments () | Archives (34)

hey alex

and again you choos to speek out of ignorance. pleas forgive us all fot making you tiered. i know it is easier just to creat your own world instad of dealing with the real world (not the mtv show alex...).ask hammas they like to do the same. al-qai'da too.
1. i dont see anything to be ashamed of. every one that are helping should be proude of it.
2. i dont care how much money somebody gave... 1 dollar or 1 billion dollars.
i would have been ashamed if israel didnt do this things , because i know that we have the ability. dont care if arab nations ( or any other nation for that matter) did or didnt send even a im sorry note. everybody should do what they can and dont mind the rest.
3.nobody said we dont owe alot to the U.S. infact if youll take the time to come over sometime you will see how much people do appriciate.
4. so what you are saing is we are doing what we can because our foriegn minister is an idiot? could have told you that he is long time ago. but you think we all jews just part of the same plane to take over the world. we dont have private opinions. we just do what we get on the news instad of thinking for ourselvs (sounds familier?). dont get me wrong , we have your type over here too.
dont like the guy or what he did with turkey. still would have jumped that plain if they had a space.
5. i didnt see a lot of refrences to israel as you discribe. maybe thats because im to busy with doing real things.
6. you didnt reffer to anything anybody said over here. why is that.
7.thank you for this. got an exam tomorrow , and its boring as hell.

Israel would provide aid to the Palestinians if the Palestinians would just stop shooting and kidnapping the Israelis...

Oh, wow you are tiresome.

Bottom line is, many countries are contributing to the relief efforts in Haiti. But only Israel has decided to try to score some cheap propaganda points by directing its Foreign Ministry spooks (that includes you people who are either paid or volunteer to spread pro-Israeli propaganda on the internet and call-in shows, etc.) to play up how great Israel is, just at a time when its smarting over the whole Turkey debacle and widely despised over the continuing oppression of Gazans.

You're nothing special. Just another chauvinistic bully with a lot of weapons and a lot of gall. The Serbs of the Middle East.

Get over yourselves. And if it wasn't for U.S. cash over the decades, you probably wouldn't even exist.

It's wonderful that these comment are moderated and approved prior to posting. Having read the one from Smart Alex, I think obvious that neither intelligence nor relevance is a criterion for posting.

Were Smart Alex to actually examine the issues objectively he would realize that any harsh treatment of Palestinians is the result of their own proclivity to commit acts of terrorism on Israeli soil. By the way, who in the Arab world has ever treated them well?

The Israel that is active in Haiti is just another example of what Israelis are about. That some choose to spin such actions negatively is nothing new.

Israel does NOT receive ANY US aid, but money for buying military equipment ONLY from US. Neither Israeli hospital and soldiers in Haiti, nor ANY Israeli humanitarian effort is funded by US.
On contrary, Hamas terrorists, at least partially, ARE funded by the US aid.
Moreover, for many years surplus was emerging in Israeli international balance of payments and now most of Israeli foreign currency reserves are invested in US government bonds. Yes, nowadays Israelis are financing America’s debts – and not the other way around.

to "smart" alex and joe...

guess how we got so good at doing all this energency medical stuff...
about the money - it is being paid out of my tex - so you dont need to worry about that...
about the palestienians - if it was my decision they had their own state yesterday
but when you want to be ruled by terroriest movment (unless ofcourse you two dont think about hammas as terrorist) dont be suprised if you are being treated like terrorists...
i have an extra bed if you would like to come over and see for your self whats it like over here... but i find it hard to believe you would give up nice pathetic lifes in order to do something real beside writing stupide unbased comments.

and who am i to speek your asking :
just an emt - p who treated bomb suicide victims , both jews and muslems , israelis or palastinians...
the last one was shot in his right palvise. the bulet came out from his left arm pit.
it took 6 hours and 40 blood units (each consist 0.5 liter of blood) to save him
at one of the best truma unit we have (belinson hospital - look it up).
i could send him to a palastinian hospital (about 10 min drive) but insted the otehr team that evcuatetd drove 50 min so he could have a better treatment - trauma level 1.

didnt get any anatomical souvenirse thou...

"Funny how generous one can be with someone else money (US aid) to help people thousand of miles away and yet keep one's own neighbors (Palestinians) under military occupation with stopping humanitarian aids from reaching them!"

That's a lie.
Israel allows many tons of aid through from the Israeli side constantly. What other country would do that to a sworn enemy? Think and learn before you post garbage.

The capacity for bigotry and ugliness never ceases to surprise me.

Harvesting dead organs of Arabs? Give it a rest along with all your other Jew-hating blood libels.

Israel's "treatment" of the Palestinian Arabs is far better than that any other nation would be under the same circumstances: Hamas and Fatah make no secret of their overarching mission to destroy Israel. That's genocide, plain and simple.

Last time I checked, the 300 million Arabs plus Iran have not sent anything to Haiti. Why is that?

To Smart Alex and Joe: Israel is paying for this out of their own pockets. Before you retort "But they get aid from the US" (all now military, by the way), consider that Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the PA together get much more annually from the US than does Israel. So where are *their* aid teams? Except for Jordan (a small team there before the quake working with the UN), they're nowhere to be found. And what's stinking rich Qatar's contribution? A paltry $1 million pledge and some supplies. But that's at least better than Saudi Arabia. Then sent condolences.

People should also know that when America's enemies struck the US embassy in Kenya in 1998, the first emergency rescue team to arrive from outside came from ... Israel.

You two should consider how small minded you appear.

Great, I just hope the soldiers don't harvest any of the dead Haitians' organs without the permission of their families.

I know, I know that was a cheap shot. But I believe well-deserved for a country that tries to use its U.S.-funded humanitarian efforts as propaganda to paper over its disastrous and vile treatment of the Palestinians.

If the Palestinians, particularly Hamas, had the same respect for human life as the Israelis do, they would not be squandering their limited resources in a futile war of conquest against Israel and devoting them instead to to Palestinian development. The contrast between them is easily seen; while Hamas fires rockets into Israeli civilian targets, the IDF goes half-way around the world to provide disaster relief in Haiti! When the Palestinians love their children more than they hate the Israelis, they will be able to end the blockade of Gaza and perhaps one day too they will be sending disaster relief missions around the world!

Funny how generous one can be with someone else money (US aid) to help people thousand of miles away and yet keep one's own neighbors (Palestinians) under military occupation with stopping humanitarian aids from reaching them!

Great Job!

Kol Hakavod (Hebrew for "they have my RESPECT")!!!!!

How does such a small country,Israel, with so many problems of their own, give so much help to others when it is needed?

They are quite an amazing people!!

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