The Jewish sages teach us that Abraham’s tent was open in all four directions because he wanted to be prepared to lend assistance to anyone who happened to pass by. Abraham, as the Bible tells us, also tried to save the people of Sodom and Gomorrah from their grave punishments. In the spirit of our forefather, Israel has been working since its establishment to provide much-needed assistance in catastrophes and to those less fortunate around the world. The founding leaders of Israel recognized that it is a country’s responsibility and moral obligation to share its experiences with other nations.
Israel is acknowledged for its rapid response to disasters and is among the first countries to lend humanitarian assistance to disaster-affected areas, even when they are distant and in turmoil. Such was the case in Haiti in 2010 and in Nepal in April 2015, following the disastrous earthquakes that struck the two countries. Immediately following the earthquake in Nepal, Israeli teams were on the ground to assist. The aid groups, assisted by the IDF, succeeded in setting up a modern field hospital equipped with state-of-the-art operating rooms and advanced intensive care units, including professionals in the fields of labor and care for preterm births. This Israeli aid was met with great appreciation, and soon after the earthquake, the UN stated that Israel’s assistance to Nepal placed her first among all other countries in terms of the number of medical personnel who arrived to assist victims of the earthquake.
World Humanitarian Summit
Recently, an Israeli delegation participated in the first UN World Humanitarian Summit, which convened in Istanbul, and had an opportunity to present Israeli humanitarian aid throughout the world. The delegation was headed by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General Dr. Dore Gold, who stated at the opening of the summit, “Israeli humanitarian involvement in the international arena reflects the ancient Jewish tradition of ‘Tikun Olam’, the inspiration for Israeli teams to dispatch quickly to disaster zones from Turkey to Haiti. We have a special interest in fulfilling the vision of PM Netanyahu also in Africa and to help many states there.”
Since its establishment, Israel has consistently provided aid to developing countries. Our moral commitment to provide humanitarian relief derives from the Jewish values we believe in and the universal values we all cherish. In providing assistance, we are doing our duty as a member state of the family of nations and fulfilling Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s vision. As Ben-Gurion stated, “the State of Israel will be tested not by its wealth, not by its army and not by its technique, but rather in its moral identity and humanitarian values.”
Israel’s international aid agency, Mashav, is the center for international cooperation within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. To date, nearly 300,000 professionals from developing countries have participated in Mashav’s activities, particularly in the fields of agriculture, water, health, education, community development, the empowerment of women, and business initiatives.
Israeli humanitarian aid comes from volunteer organizations as well as from individual volunteers. Magen David Adom, Israel’s national society for the International Red-Cross Movement, continues to lend a hand to disaster-stricken areas such as the Philippines and Nepal well after immediate relief efforts end. Among the active volunteer organizations is “IsraAID,” whose volunteers are active today in 18 disaster-stricken countries. A prime example of this organization’s efforts is the South Sudan project, where Israeli experts train local professionals in handling situations ranging from violence against women to issues of public health. Other examples include ‘Tevel b’Tzedek’ whose goal is to strive for social and environmental justice around the world, and ‘Eye from Zion’ which provides free medical eye care to persons in developing countries. Another Israel-based international humanitarian project is ‘Save a Child’s Heart’ (SACH), which is concerned with life-saving heart operations and medical monitoring for children from developing nations. To date, SACH has saved the lives of 4,000 children from Africa, South America, Europe, Asia, and throughout the Middle East.
The Torah engraves in us the concern for life of everyone, everywhere. The Jewish culture, and thus the Israeli one as well, teaches us not be indifferent to others’ misfortunes, despite differences in heritage or belief. We can take pride in the assistance that Israel is providing all around the world.
Adv. Daniel Meron is Head of the UN & International Organizations Bureau, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem. Previously, he was the foreign affairs advisor to the President of Israel and Minister for Congressional Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC.