Training for the next missile attack or earthquake to hit Israel

Though the command relies mostly on conscripted soldiers, reservists are called in for large-scale disasters, like the one in Ramat Hachayal.

January 20, 2017 06:04
2 minute read.
THE IDF’S Home Front Command search and rescue unit participates in a drill yesterday.

THE IDF’S Home Front Command search and rescue unit participates in a drill yesterday.. (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)


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The building had been hit by a missile and was completely destroyed, trapping over 20 people inside.

The IDF’s Home Front Command’s search and rescue unit made it to the scene in record time from their bases in the West Bank, and set up command posts where they assessed the situation from as many angles as possible before climbing onto the rubble to begin their lifesaving work.

Right away, one man was pronounced dead at the scene, but less than a meter away, another was found alive. The unit’s engineers were on hand, advising the soldiers which piece of rubble to move and at what angle in order to save the man’s life.

With his okay, the soldiers began using an air-lifting bag to move the large slab of concrete off of the injured man.

“Enough, enough, you don’t need to lift anymore!” the engineer yelled, and up the slab went, striking the injured man before it came crashing down beside him.

Unfortunately, the injured man did not make it, but many other lives were saved.

The entire simulation took several hours. “As you can see today, we made mistakes,” Lt.-Col. Sharon Itah, head of the Home Front Command’s training center, told The Jerusalem Post. “Now we will debrief the soldiers so we can see where and why the mistakes occurred. We will then do the same drill over and over again until we do it right.”

This may have been a drill, but these soldiers were training for real-life scenarios.
IDF soldiers hold large-scale exercise Dec. 5, 2016 in preparation for possible round of altercations with Hamas on the border with the Gaza Strip

The next exercise simulated a building collapse similar to the one in September in the Ramat Hachayal business district in Tel Aviv, where a multi-level parking garage still under construction collapsed, killing four.

The Ramat Hachayal disaster was “very different and very hard,” Itah told the Post, adding that units from all over the country took part in the four-day operation.

The dirt-covered concrete slabs used in the next drill were taken from the Ramat Hachayal disaster, lending the drill even more authenticity.

Throughout the day’s training exercises, dummies were used in place of actual people.

“To see a body is very difficult,” Itah said, pointing to the dummies beneath the rubble.

“And while we don’t use real bodies in our exercises, the soldiers know that their job is to save lives.”

While the soldiers training were primarily conscripts, dozens of reservists were there as well, partaking in drills to preserve their skills and knowledge.

Though the command relies mostly on conscripted soldiers, reservists are called in for large-scale disasters, like the one in Ramat Hachayal.

In addition to carrying out rescue operations in response to man-made and natural disasters, members of the search and rescue unit are also fighters, serving in the West Bank 10 months out of the year as well as guarding Israel’s borders with Egypt and Jordan.

While some units in the IDF struggle with meeting their recruitment quotas, Itah said that the opposite is true for the search and rescue unit, which is experiencing a rising interest in enrollment by prospective soldiers.

Soldiers in the search and rescue unit are “ready 24/7,” no matter where they are, Itah said. “It doesn’t matter who is under the rubble, enemy or not, Jewish or Arab. Our mission is to save lives.”

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