Oct. 30, 2015
Why Israel Helps Worldwide When Disaster Strikes – Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan (Times of Israel)
From the earthquake in Mexico City in 1985, to the flooding in the Philippines this year, for 30 years the State of Israel has been sending relief delegations abroad. Almost everywhere we go, we are the first to arrive, and in most cases, our contribution is the greatest in the period closest to when the disaster occurs. The Israeli temperament is well suited to functioning in disaster areas: we reach a site that is in complete chaos, and we know how to manage pretty well. We are able to handle authority, we know how to improvise, and we are good problem-solvers.
In Haiti after the earthquake, our staff numbered 240. It included nurses who had left their children behind at home, doctors, hospital department heads. Their readiness to help – to just drop everything and come work under difficult conditions – was amazing, living in tents, treating patients in intense heat and humidity, and with earthquake aftershocks all the time.
Our offering help to those wounded in the Syrian civil war – it’s not for the public relations. Providing help makes us feel human. We’ve had our own disasters throughout history, and we were not always offered help. It is our responsibility, therefore, to be a “light unto the nations.” We’re talking about realizing a human obligation. Yes, they come from an enemy country, and we do not give them a pre-test to find out what they think about Israel, even while the hospitalizations cost us millions.
We know that it doesn’t change Israel’s image in the world. But we are creating ties with the enemy that are of a different nature. We are saying to them: you can live alongside us without fighting. If, one day, there will be a government there, and on both sides of the border there will be people who will say to themselves, “We know from the past that we can gain from these mutual ties,” that will be our reward.
We, the Jewish people, must seek out the added value in life. It was the Zionist vision that insisted on revival through building. The Zionist perspective chose not to wallow in tragedy and in playing the victim. The highest expression of this value is the ability to help. We’ve been through it, we understand it, and we know how to help.
The writer is Deputy Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.