Israel can often be found on the front lines helping out in areas that are in urgent need of aid following a disaster. The country has a proud tradition of sending help, just ten years after it was founded Israel adopted an official humanitarian aid agenda as a principal element of the country’s international cooperation efforts. Over the years, the country has provided international humanitarian aid to over 140 countries, even to countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
Most recently, Israel sent a military humanitarian rescue team to south-eastern Brazil after a collapse of a dam at an iron-ore mine. The collapse, which happened in the last week of January 2019, killed more than 40 people, with scores more hospitalised.
Israel sent a delegation of ZAKA Search and Rescue volunteers together with an IDF Home Front Command delegation of 130 search and rescue, naval, engineering, firefighting and medical experts. They brought with them sophisticated equipment, including a sonar device, to help and search for survivors.
Speaking about the mission the ZAKA International Rescue Unit commander Mati Goldstein said, “ZAKA has accumulated vast experience in search, rescue and recovery at dozens of mass casualty incidents and terror attacks around the world. With this experience and expertise, we are able to save lives and significantly contribute to the local search-and-rescue efforts. Our mission will focus on rescuing survivors, and search and recovery of those killed in the disaster.”
One of the biggest missions sent by Israel was to Haiti following a devastating earthquake in January 2010. An IDF search and rescue team and field hospital were sent together with relief teams from Israeli NGOs, such as ZAKA, IsraAid, F.I.R.S.T and Latet.
Another major disaster where Israel was amongst the first to help out was the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004. Israel sent 60 tons of aid to Indonesia, a country that has absolutely no ties with Israel. The government also sent 82 tons of relief supplies, such as medicine, water, food, blankets, tents, nylon sheeting and electric generators to Sri Lanka.
Following the November 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, Pakistan, Israel was also quick to respond. An Israeli NGO, Israeli Flying Aid, sent a mission to the area to provide basic dry food products, blankets, coats, socks, heating kits, and iron sheets to families there to help them build temporary shelters from heavy snow.
All of this work is carried out by a number of NGOs, the main one being IsraAID. It is an umbrella organisation of more than 35 Israeli and Jewish NGOs that was founded in 2001. It carries out work around the world and has a provided assistance to more than 20 countries including Rwanda, India, Mexico, Congo, Chad, Sudan (Darfur) and Malawi.
Another very active company is The Fast Israeli Rescue and Search Team (FIRST), it is an NGO that sends search and rescue teams to disaster zones around the world and in the past, it has worked in Peru, Turkey, India, Mexico, El Salvador, Greece, Armenia and New Guinea, and more.
In short, Israel always does its best to help countries in need, regardless of the country’s attitude towards Israel, and over the years, the country has done an immense amount of valuable world.