4/17 FAITH MATTERS: Israel to the rescue in earthquake-ravaged Haiti

The earthquake struck Haiti on Jan. 12, bringing with it devastation, death and destruction. Sixteen hours away by plane, Israel reacted to this dire tragedy.

A five-member Israel Defense Force team was sent to Haiti to determine what was needed, how Israel could help and what must be done immediately.

By Jan. 15, Israelis had established the first and the finest field hospital in Port-Au-Prince. The hospital had 40 doctors, 40 nurses, a pharmacy, a children’s ward, a maternity ward, two operating rooms, an intensive care unit and an emergency room.

Israel’s hospital has treated more than 300 patients, performed more than 25 life-saving surgeries and helped more than 2,000 people.

Gubilande Jean Michel named her baby “Israel,” because doctors at this field hospital ensured a safe, healthy delivery of her son.

The hospital was not the only response made by Israel. The Israel Canine Rescue team fanned out through the entire area searching for survivors. With each rescue, crowds of Haitians shouted “good job Israel, good job.” On Jan. 22, 10 days after the earthquake, an Israel Defense Force Home Front Command team rescued a 22-year-old man from a building near the Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince.

Why did Israel respond in such a fashion? Why has Israel performed the same rescue activity when earthquakes hit Turkey, Greece, Armenia and Mexico? The answer is summed up by one Israeli doctor who told an NBC newsperson that “when we save the life of one person, we feel that we have saved the world.”

This story needs to be told to your entire family and to all of your friends, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. It needs to be heard on all of the college campuses in the country and in every land throughout the world.

Why should this story be told? Because there are far too many anti-Semites in the world, far too many haters of Israel in the world.

They all need to hear this story so they realize that what Israel wants, at home and abroad, is a world where people respect one another, reach out to each other in times of need, and provide support wherever and whenever they can.

Ask the Israel haters of our world these questions: What did the Palestinians do to help Haiti? What did Hezbollah and Hamas do to help Haiti? What did the Arab world do to provide support and assistance for the Haitians?

The answer is they did nothing. No effort was made to help, no support was given, no response was made for a country that cried out for help.

Of all the countries in the Middle East, only Israel came forward, only Israel brought their doctors and nurses to Haiti.

Doesn’t that tell you something about the heart and soul of Israel? Our people want peace. Our people want to share in all that happens in the world. Our people are there whenever need arises.

As David Horvitz, a reporter for The Jerusalem Post, wrote recently: “There is one thing that our Haiti rescue outreach made emphatically clear, and that the Palestinians might want to ponder: If you’re in trouble and you are not trying to kill us, there’s no one like the Israelis to help you out.”

Words to think about. Words to remember.

Rabbi Howard A. Simon, chairman of the Robert and Esther Heller Israel Advocacy Initiative, lives in Sarasota.