April 30, 2015
Dear Friend of Israel,
A massive 7.8 earthquake rocked Nepal last Saturday and already the number of casualties is staggering: more than 4,600 dead, another 9,000-plus injured, 8 million Nepalese affected, and 1 million children in need of urgent help. These numbers represent simply the human toll, and don’t begin to describe the damage to homes, schools, hospitals, and entire villages. In a word, Nepal is devastated.
While international aid workers are arriving from around the world, they face the challenge of navigating Kathmandu international airport’s one runway, and reaching remote villages across rugged terrain.
At least two of the planes that have made it to Kathmandu included Israelis. On Sunday, a group of Israeli doctors and paramedics arrived in Nepal and began working in conjunction with the Red Cross. One of this delegation, paramedic Ravit Martinez, described the scene to The Times of Israel: “We treated children with abdominal and chest injuries, and lots of broken legs and arms. We did stitches everywhere, stitches in places like ears, eyes and faces. It’s not very sanitary and clean, but this is the field, and this is what we have.”
Then on Monday, 260 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) rescue workers as well as 95 tons of medical and logistical equipment arrived. These IDF soldiers have been trained to set up field hospitals within 12 hours of arrival, including operation rooms, x-ray capabilities, laboratories, and more. The temporary hospital will offer about 200 patients a day treatment from Israel’s top specialists in traumatic injuries.
Before these workers left Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu told them, “You are being sent on an important mission. This is the real face of Israel – a state that comes to assist those far away at moments like these.”
Israel’s response in the Nepal should come as no surprise. The Jewish state has a long history of reaching out to the world in the event of severe storms, floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. As Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu put it after dispatching a relief team to assist survivors of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, "We may be a small country, but we are a country with a big heart. This is the expression of Jewish ethics and heritage – to help others."
It is a side of Israel the world sees far too little of, not because it’s not there, but because world governments and media choose so often to focus on Israel’s faults – real or imagined – to the exclusion of all else. But, as Netanyahu so eloquently said, the real story of Israel – of what Israel is as a nation, and who Israelis are as a people – differs greatly from the portrayal of Israel in the media. With Israel’s humanitarian efforts in Nepal, the world is seeing that the Jewish state continually seeks to reach beyond its borders to make the world a better place – to be the “light unto the nations” mentioned in Isaiah 49:6.
In the wake of this tragedy, let us pray for the people of Nepal who have suffered so greatly, and who face such formidable challenges as they seek to recover from this disaster and rebuild their country. And let us also give thanks to God for aid workers, including those from Israel, who have gone to Nepal to help the victims – for those who give hope and comfort to those in dire need. May their efforts be successful, and may we all see the day when God blesses our world with His most precious gift of shalom, peace.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President