In the recent devastating earthquakes that struck Nepal, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) brought in rescue dogs to search through the rubble in Kathmandu to locate survivors2. Along with the rescue dogs, over 250 doctors and emergency personnel were part of an IDF delegation which responded to the crisis.

When disaster strikes anywhere in the world, Israel is able to rapidly deploy field hospitals, medi­cal teams and search and rescue operations. Israel has the experience and has developed the expertise to deal effectively with mass casualties. The tragedy of war and terrorism have given Israel exceptional skills when responding to emergency situations, like earthquakes and other natural or man-made disasters.

Israel’s official involvement in extending international humanitarian aid began in 1958, when MASHAV was established by the Foreign Ministry. (MASHAV is the Hebrew acronym for Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation). The foreign minister at the time, Golda Meir, had visited Africa and seen that there was a need for humanitarian aid which Israel could meet. Israeli medical teams were able to provide equipment and skills that were often inaccessible to developing African countries. For example, Israel established ‘eye camps’ where medical staff performed operations to restore sight. Training was also provided for local staff and medical equipment was donated to the host country when the Israelis’ stay came to an end.

Israel has broadened its humanitarian aid agenda since the early efforts of the fifties. For over thirty years Israel has extended international humanitarian aid to countries experiencing natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Needed food, medical supplies and other equipment, as well as temporary housing, are provided by Israel in emergency situations. Over the years, more than 140 countries have received emergency and humanitarian aid from Israel.

Israel extends international humanitarian aid assistance even to those countries that do not maintain diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. Following the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, Israel sent sixty tons of aid to Indonesia, a country with the largest Muslim population in the world, and no ties with Israel. Aid was also sent to Pakistan after the November 2005 earthquake in Kashmir. Thousands of families were provided with basic dry food products, blankets, clothing and building materials to construct temporary shelters from the heavy snows.

After the devastating earthquake in January 2010, a disaster relief mission was despatched to Haiti, which included an IDF search and rescue team and field hospital, supplemented by relief teams from Israeli non-governmental organisa­tions.

Israeli humanitarian aid organisations

IsraAID (The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid), founded in Israel in 2001, is an umbrella organisation of more than thirty-five Israeli and Jewish non-governmental organisations and other individuals, active in development and relief work around the world and concerned about global issues. IsraAID and its members have pro­vided relief assistance to more than twenty coun­tries including Rwanda, India, Mexico, Congo, Chad, Sudan (Darfur) and Malawi.

FIRST (The Fast Israeli Rescue and Search Team) is a non-governmental organisation that sends search and rescue teams to disaster zones around the world. FIRST has provided relief as­sistance in Peru, Turkey, India, Mexico, El Salvador, Greece, Armenia and New Guinea.

Israeli Flying Aid (IFA) is a non-governmental organisation that provides lifesaving aid to peo­ple affected by natural and man-made disasters worldwide.

SACH (Save a Child’s Heart) is an organisa­tion that provides urgent paediatric heart surgery and follow-up care for children from developing countries. SACH was founded in 1995 and has since repaired the heart of more than 2000 children from a wide variety of countries, including children in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

These and many other Israeli aid organisations provide help in time of crisis to countries around the world. But sadly, Israel today generally receives more attention for its response to attacks on its people from Arab terrorist groups, than for its humanitarian aid programs. This will not always be the case, however. When Christ is on earth again and the nations are humbled by God’s judgements, people will come to understand the blessings that flow from association with Israel. Then many “shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you [to worship at Jerusalem]: for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech 8:23).

Footnotes

  1. Main source for this article: “Israel on the frontline of international aid”. [Online] URL: http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/ForeignPolicy/Aid/Pages/Israel_on_frontline_international_aid.aspx
  2. Sam Webb, “Nepal earthquake: see rescue dog’s view as it searches through the rubble of Kathmandu for survivors”, www.mirror.co.uk 1 May 2015 [Online] URL: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/nepal-earthquake-see-rescue- dogs-5619579