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In keeping with its policy of sharing its extensive expertise with the world, the IDF's Home Front Command last week hosted more than three dozen foreign emergency personnel for the third course in Crisis Site Management, aimed at teaching them how to deal with anything from shopping center bombings to earthquakes.
"We don't keep secret the methods we developed to save lives. This is not something we need to keep to ourselves or want to. We want to share our knowledge with everyone," said Col. Shalom Ben-Arieh, commander of the IDF's National Search and Rescue and Civil Defense School.
Ben-Arieh is responsible for training the country's emergency personnel, including firemen, police, Zaka (Disaster Victims Identification), and the Home Front Command's own search and rescue reserve and standing units.
"We can be ready within 15 minutes on a helicopter to be sent anywhere in the country," Ben-Arieh told The Jerusalem Post.
The Home Front Command has also dispatched its personnel around the world.
Most recently, they helped in the Taba bombing evacuation as well as the Versailles banquet hall that collapsed in Jerusalem.
The log book records helping rescue earthquake victims in Mexico City in 1984 and Armenia in 1988. In 1992, they traveled to Buenos Aires to help with rescue operations after the bombing of the Israeli Embassy. In 1998, they joined rescue efforts in Nairobi, Kenya, after the US Embassy there was bombed.
One of their more dramatic operations came in 1999 in Turkey when they rescued nine-year-old Israeli tourist Shiran Franco from under the earthquake ruins she had laid under for more than 100 hours.
"Today we can say that we have knowledge that is rare in the fact that there are not lot of places that know how to work under ruins like we do," Ben-Arieh said.
The IDF opened the first international course two years ago with a handful of participants. Last year there were 25 enrolled.
"The course this year had 37 people from 12 nations," Ben-Arieh said. "There is great demand and we didn't have room for everyone. We expect next year to have two courses."
Participating countries include the United States, Brazil, Great Britain, Germany, Canada, China, Hungary, Poland and Greece, the IDF Spokesman said.
There were other countries represented, but they do not have diplomatic relations with Israel and asked not to be mentioned.
The IDF also barred journalists from speaking to the international participants.
Israeli instructors spoke English in the week-long course, held at an IDF base in the center of the country. Participants included police and fire personnel as well as military officers and civilians who deal with rescue operations.
Ben-Arieh said the course involved analyzing emergencies, like an earthquake, to determine how a population behaves and what to expect, and to set an order of action. "There is order in the chaos," he said.
In a technique similar to war games, the experts discuss an event, then pore over a flow of data like aerial photographs, and organize the crisis.
"There is great interaction between the various disciplines and from the many nations. We are not testing anyone," Ben-Arieh said.
"The meeting is not to learn just from Israelis but also from the other people in the course."
All of the participants pay their own fare to Israel as well as their hotel accommodations.
The IDF does not charge for the course.
"This world has turned into a small village. This connection we make is very important. We are sitting on the volatile Syrian-African rift. One day we may need friends and seek their help," Ben-Arieh said.
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