Israel's finest hour
in Haiti: "Rolls Royce of medicine"
by Michael Freund, The Jerusalem Post, January 20, 2010
If there is anyone who still doubts the ability of the State of Israel to accomplish great things, the events of the past week should lay those concerns to rest. From one end of the world to the other, the highest ideals of Judaism and Zionism were prominently on display, as Israel took part not in one‹but two!‹remarkable missions laden with meaning.
Across the ocean, amid the rubble-strewn streets of Port-au-Prince, three IDF rescue teams carefully searched through the ruins of the Haitian capital for survivors of the devastating January 12 earthquake. Racing against the clock, these young Jews in uniform, accompanied by specially-trained canines, heroically sorted through mounds of debris and wreckage to pull the wounded to safety.
Over the weekend, the guardians in green extricated a 58-year-old man from beneath his flattened home, and on Monday, they saved the life of a student who had been trapped for six days under a shattered university building.
Following their exploits in the press, one could only marvel at the valor and courage of our soldiers, as they risked their lives to save those of others, in the process bringing honor to us all.
Meanwhile, the field hospital established by the IDF to treat victims of the disaster was quickly making a name for itself as the best-run and most fully-equipped operation in the area. Set up last Friday on a soccer field, the complex boasts 40 doctors and 24 nurses, as well as teams of paramedics, X-ray equipment and personnel, an emergency room, a children's ward, a maternity ward and even a pharmacy.
No other nation, including the US, has yet to establish anything remotely as advanced or comprehensive, despite the passage of more than a week since the quake hit.
No wonder the American television network CBS went so far as to call the IDF hospital the "Rolls-Royce of medicine in Haiti." Indeed, Israel's health team has been doing such a terrific job that even CNN (a.k.a. the consistently negative network) couldn't find anything critical to say, as their senior medical correspondent heaped praise on the IDF's work.
Though a vast gulf separates Israel from Haiti, with more than 10,500 kilometers of ocean lying between us, the Jewish people demonstrated that their extended hand can bridge any gap and traverse any chasm when it comes to saving lives.
But the residents of the Caribbean island nation were not the only beneficiaries of Israel's humanity this week. Much closer to home, we were witness to the arrival of 82 members of the Falash Mura, descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity centuries ago.
Landing at Ben-Gurion Airport early Tuesday morning, the new immigrants were greeted by Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver.
It was a scene that should fill every Jewish heart with pride, as the remnants of Ethiopian Jewry complete the millennial-old journey back to the land of their ancestors. Hundreds more are expected to arrive over the next few months, as the government finally moves towards fulfilling its previous promises to allow the remaining members of the community to make aliya.
And so, even as our foes noisily continue to assert that Zionism is racism, Israel stands alone in embracing a black African community and welcoming it into our midst.
So it was quite a week for Jewish heroism. Over the course of a few days, the State of Israel saved lives and saved Jews.
It was, in every respect, Israel's finest hour.
Will all this change how the world views us? I doubt it.
But let it at least change how we view ourselves. We so often get caught up in the negativity that seems to fill the news each day that we tend to overlook the beauty and splendor of this country and its achievements.
It is moments such as these when we need to stop what we are doing, cast a gaze towards the heavens, and proudly declare: Thank God for the State of Israel. Without it, the world would be a far less noble place.