The IDF’s “Operation Good Neighbor” and Ziv Hospital are striking examples of Israel’s overt humanitarian outreach. Thousands of Syrians who have considered Israel as an enemy now have an entirely different viewpoint. Unlike their dictator Bashar Assad-the “barrel-bomb” tyrant who has killed or driven out much of his population-Syrian civilians have learned the truth in their desperate circumstances. Israel is a good neighbor whether out in the open or in a covert operation.
When staffing many combined spiritual and geopolitical trips to Israel for Christian Leaders sponsored by AIPAC’s affiliated American Israel Education Foundation, I’ve ridden in rugged four wheelers to the top of the Israeli Golan Heights. In the distance, mortars sounded as background audio punctuating the military briefings we received. Sobering to say the least. On other trips, we traveled to the Quneitra crossing between Israel and Syria, where I saw the arrival of aid delivered in an Israeli truck. Before crossing the border, the goods were transferred into Red Cross lorries. Our group engaged in interesting conversations with the IDF guarding the crossing as well as with United Nations personnel. I’ve visited Ziv Hospital in Safed for briefings from their physicians and administrators. Through a translator, I talked with Syrian teenagers who expressed their gratitude for the Israelis, their clean bed and the food they ate. They were among Syrian civilians who needed surgery and transported by IDF Operation Good Neighbor to the hospital; a total of more than 4,900 patients. Some of our group visited the ward for the injured babies and toddlers. I simply couldn’t bring myself to go to that ward.
Recently, after two years of providing medical aid and care to Syrian civilians who made it to the Israeli border, the IDF is forced to close Operation Good Neighbor due to the Assad’s forces retaking the Syrian Golan Heights. The IDF’s records portray a massive effort. It encompassed training doctors, treating 500 patients daily, providing 630 tents, 40 vehicles, 20 generators, fuel, 26,000 palettes of medical equipment and medicine, and tons of food. They paid special attention to children giving 49,000 baby food packages, 8,200 packages of diapers, and 350 tons of children’s clothing.
When Maj. Dr. Sergei Kotikov, a senior IDF officer part of Operation Good Neighbor asked a 12-year-old patient what he wanted to do when he grew up, the boy replied, “’I’m not sure I will get older.’’
In addition to the IDF and Ziv Hospital’s overt operations, an Israeli covert operation, Israel Flying Aid, (IFA) has actively garnered millions of dollars in medicine and medical equipment in cooperation with the IDF and also covertly taking it into war-ravaged Syria. Gal Lusky, IFA’s founder, brought her 7-year covert operation out from the shadows a few years ago saying, ‘I needed those people to know who we are. I want them to feel a tiny bit of solidarity, to fill their souls as well as their stomachs.” Lusky and many of the volunteers are descendants of Holocaust survivors. She has also recruited responsive residents of the Golan Heights and Israeli young people to gather life-saving supplies including a huge donation of warm clothing for a harsh Syrian winter. Israel Flying Aid’s motto is “Nobody asks permission to kill. We do not ask permission to save lives.”
Humanitarian kudos also for two Christian organizations who have worked in cooperation with the IDF; Frontier Alliance International and Friend Ships. The IDF and both Jewish and Christian volunteers have risked their lives daily to help the Muslim and Christian citizens of Syria who have suffered under the brutal decisions of the Syrian President.