Aviv Rosen and Yonatan Molcho are two young Israelis who were in Nepal for the traditional “gap year” trip many Israelis take after finishing military service and before beginning academic studies. Aviv and Yonatan were in the remote Nepalese area of Langtang when the earthquake struck. The area experienced massive shaking; all of the walls started to slough off. There were boulders, rock falls and debris sliding down everywhere. After three days, rescue teams helicoptered into the remote area to spirit out tourists stranded there, but Aviv and Yonatan decided to stay and help with the recovery efforts. Yaffa Rosen, mother of Aviv, was quoted in the media as saying: “…he has values and thinks about others beside himself…he stayed behind [and didn’t fly back home] because of his love for mankind, not in order receive something.”
The story of Aviv and Yonatan is symbolic of the Israeli spirit, to reach out and help other nations in need. In the wake of world disasters, Israeli aid teams are frequently the first on the scene to offer vital assistance. Israeli diplomats abroad know that if a major humanitarian crisis breaks out in the country where they serve they will be called upon to offer assistance.
Recently, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power delivered a speech in Washington DC, in which she stated that Israel has shown time and again how much it has to offer the world. Ambassador Power said: “Consider Israel’s participation in the UN’s responses to global humanitarian crises like the recent Ebola outbreak – a cause to which Israel contributed one of the highest per capita amounts of money and resources – at the same time as it delivered mobile Ebola treatment units to the affected countries. Or think about its rapid deployment following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, of an entire field hospital, which it deployed with the help of the United States within four days of the earthquake. If those are not modern day embodiments of tikkun olam, I don’t know what is”.
Tikkun olam is a Hebrew phrase that means “repairing the world”. It is a basic Jewish concept to be concerned with the plight of all human beings. God says to his people: “Remember the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy, 10:19). The Bible tells us that man was made in God’s image (‘Tzelem Elokim’), therefore we should respect all mankind.
In this spirit, it should not come as a surprise that MASHAV (Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation), of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is already considering what type of assistance it could deliver to Nepal, after the initial stage of search and rescue is over.
Meanwhile, the Israeli field hospital in Nepal opened its doors, only four days after the quake, and will be treating some 200 patients a day throughout Nepal. It relies on an independent infrastructure, and includes 50 tons of medical equipment. The field hospital has a range of wards and 125 personnel — trained and experienced medical staff. This remarkable achievement is testimony to the spirit of Israel in “Remembering the stranger”.