Hillel is often quoted as saying, “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” The interpretation of this simple phrase is often taken to mean standing against evil. Where others won’t stand…this is where you should. There is a simpler meaning, as we saw in the last two weeks in Haiti – simply…when there is a need to action, act.
Israel combined this concept with another that is inherently part of our army, the “Follow me” concept. In those first shocking hours when the world was still assessing what was happening, Israel had already mobilized its rescue and medical squads. A mere 15 hours after the earthquake had struck, Israeli planes were lifting off the ground, fully loaded, completely prepared.
They arrived to find a hell on earth that few can imagine and without hesitation, they dug in, and in so doing, saved dozens of lives, even hundreds. Over the last fourteen days, almost 1,000 patients were treated, several hundred life-saving operations were performed, more than a dozen babies delivered who might otherwise never have been born.
BBC and other news agencies tried to ignore the Israeli presence, at least to downplay it.
Never mind the Jewish star on the uniform, the Israeli army insignia…we mustn’t do anything to make Israel look too good.
And good Israel did look because what BBC and others tried to do, didn’t succeed. It was there in the wonder of the CNN reporter’s voice, “My God,” she said into the camera in shocked wonder, “they have machines here.” Ventilators, X-ray machines – where other nations threw up tents, Israel created surgical departments on the ground, a pediatric ward, and so much more.
What Israel did speaks of the essence of this country – what it is, and what it could be if the world but allowed it. In an ironic twist, Israel was forced to pay the United Nations for damages to its infrastructure during the Gaza War the same week it was pulling UN personnel from under the rubble.
The Gaza War was an avoidable tragedy for all. Had the United Nations but demanded Hamas stop firing thousands of rockets into our cities, we would not have had to act. Had the UN but demanded that Hamas respect their infrastructure and remove rockets from amidst their buildings and schools and supply houses, Israel would not then have targeted those rocket launchers…and damaging the buildings that protected them.
Gaza was avoidable – Haiti was not.
No, I do not expect the world to awaken from its prejudices, nor do I expect the United Nations to pay Israel for the massive rescue effort its tax payers accept without complaints.
I doubt the United Nations will even bother to thank us for our efforts in saving their personnel or notice the irony of demanding payment rather than offering it.
We will pay for our doctors and medical equipment and when they return, they will come to a land pleased with their efforts and proud of their bravery.
They went to Haiti not for glory, but because there was no one else who flew so fast, so far, so strong. Where there are no men, strive to be a man…where there is no one rushing to do what is right, rush there and save lives.
Others may soon forget the sight of IDF soldiers precariously working their way under the rubble…but the people of Haiti won’t forget, and we won’t forget. The Goldstones of the world will bear their humiliation well – their baseless claims against Israel will be believed by those who would believe the worst of us.
Yes, some idiot claimed Israel was harvesting organs in Haiti, as some idiot in Sweden claimed we were harvesting Palestinian organs and some idiots in Europe claimed we were drinking Christian blood for Passover in the not so distant past.
What matters is not what they claim, but what we did. What matters is that once again, in a place where other nations hesitated, Israel stepped in. We strived, and succeeded, in showing the best of humanity.
There is a baby in Haiti named Israel, another named Deborah, another named Daniel and another named Vladimir – all a testament to Israel, to our brave rescue and medical teams.
Others have arrived and will take over the burden of the long-term reclamation of Haiti, our teams return home – most likely exhausted for having worked around the clock in difficult, almost unimaginable conditions. They come back to a nation so proud.