Watching the news about the devastating earthquake in Nepal I was struck by something small but very significant.
Although we have enough local problems to keep us occupied, Israel has been following the details of this disaster – because there were 2000 Israelis in Nepal when the earthquake hit and because, whenever possible, Israel reaches out to help. Over the years, the IDF’s humanitarian aid has served as a source of relief for people all over the world. From India and Turkey to Argentina, America, Haiti and most recently the Philippines, Israel has lent a helping hand to dozens of countries hit by natural disasters.
We’ve all been following the stories from Nepal. The Israelis found and rescued. The on-going search for still missing Or Asraf, the only unaccounted for Israeli.
The search and rescue experts from Israel, equipped with everything including specially trained dogs looking for local survivors – we rejoice with the reports of the people they rescued, those that survived miraculously, after days of being trapped under rubble. The team of Israeli medical experts who flew to Kathmandu, set up a field hospital and in the first day of operation treated some 100 people. It was to the Israeli hospital that the Americans took the 15 year old boy they rescued today after he had been trapped 5 days under rubble.
We’ve heard these stories before. When there is an earthquake, tsunami or devastating terror attack, Israel volunteers to help. The cynical would say that Israel must do it for political gain however the practical will answer that there isn’t much gain from helping African countries, 3rd world nations… no one really cares about them and there really isn’t much to gain from assisting them – except the knowledge that we did everything we can to assuage suffering. And because we identify and empathize. Because life is precious and healing is holy.
This is an automatic response. These are the standards we set for ourselves and something that is pretty much taken for granted by the average Israeli. It’s what’s expected. It’s the right thing to do.
It’s fascinating how just a few words said by one Israeli woman in Nepal, waiting to be brought back to Israeli put everything in perspective.
The woman described seeing a man who was outside, waiting like she was. She was inside, with the other Israelis, sheltered and safe, waiting for the plane to come from Israel to bring them home. He was outside, in the cold, with nowhere to go. She approached the man and he told her he was from Switzerland. She asked, “What did your embassy tell you to do? What assistance did they give you?” His reply shocked her.
“Nothing,” he said, “They told me to figure it out on my own.”
The woman was horrified. It had never crossed her mind that there was a possibility of not getting help. She knew with absolute certainty that the Israeli embassy would bring help from Israel, half way around the world and she, along with all the other Israelis would be rescued.
And she was right.
The difference between yes and no, between help and no help make all the difference in the world.
Israel protects Israelis everywhere. But not just Israelis – Israelis demand more of this little country.
Some Israelis were attacked by local Nepalese who saw helicopters coming to rescue the Israelis and wanted to be rescued as well. What did the Israelis do in turn?
They demanded that the State of Israel send enough aide to rescue all of the trapped Israelis AND assist the Nepalese who had lost everything. The Israelis understood the desperation of people whose homes had been ruined, whose families were torn apart. Instead of being outraged at being attacked, they empathized and demanded assistance for their attackers.
They demanded Israel come to the rescue. Not Nepal. Not nearby India, the UN or America but little Israel.
Isn’t that striking?
Little country. Big difference.