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Israel has sent one of the largest aid teams to Nepal after the recent devastating Earthquake. Over 250 doctors and experts in search and rescue were dispatched to the region. Israel’s ability to respond with such a massive and effective force is not only due to decades of experience on the battlefield, but it also expresses a centuries-old tradition of Jewish devotion to the medical arts.

The great Jewish Physicians of the medieval period are more widely known for their written works in poetry and philosophy. Their ranks included Yehuda Halevi and Moses Maimonides.

And the tradition continues today where Israel is a leader in medical innovation the world over and is currently providing emergency care not just in Nepal but also on the Syrian front, where its field hospitals are overwhelmed by the non-stop stream of victims from Syria’s civil war.

And yet despite these life-saving efforts, I suspect the critics of Israel will find a way to malign the Jewish state. Positive stories about Israel’s acceptance of gays are labeled “pink-washing”, Israeli green technology, including organic farming, solar energy and water conservation – all desperately needed in the world today – are dismissed as “green-washing”. So, here’s to a new term: “red-washing”, because no matter how you paint it, Israel won’t stop providing medical aid wherever it is needed.

The following podcast episode provides some historical background to the phenomenon of the Jewish poet/philosopher/doctor featuring an excerpt from a lecture by the late, Dr. David Neiman.