The presence of Israel's delegation in Haiti and the frequent media reports (by the army's communication center) from the military field hospital have brought the tragedy of last week's earthquake home to Israelis.
As patients are treated in what is said to be the only hospital in Haiti besides that of the U.N., the media are now focusing on the fate of the children there. The elation after delivering healthy babies and successful treatment of children is tempered by the fate of those who have nowhere to go and no one left: The hospital needs the beds for treatment.
Amos Radian, Israel's ambassador to the Dominican Republic, who also represents the country in Haiti, suggested to the foreign ministry that Israel adopt about 50 children treated in the hospital who appear to have been orphaned. The foreign ministry said it would examine the legal aspects of the proposal. In the meanwhile, according to Israeli TV, the ministry is preparing to erect a youth village for hundreds of orphaned children in Haiti and plans to staff it with volunteers, counselors and mostly female soldiers from the army's education corps.
A Vietnamese refugee who found a new life in Israel spoke with Israel Radio this morning about finding safe haven and the difficulty of growing up looking different from those around him. Huong was 9 years old in 1977 when then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin granted entry to the boat of refugees on which he was a passenger. "I feel for these children," he said of the young Haitians. "There's nothing like a child waiting for a hug, a kind word or just someone by his side after all he's been through."
-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem
Photo: A Haitian mother and her newborn boy, whom she named Israel. The child was the first delivered by staff at the Israeli army field hospital in Haiti. Credit: IDF spokesman