Israel aid team arrives in Albania following earthquake

The 6.4-magnitude quake, Albania's worst ever, was centered 30 km. west of the capital Tirana and was felt across the Balkans and southern Italy across the Adriatic Sea.

A firefighter stands near a damaged building in Durres, after an earthquake shook Albania, December 2, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/FLORION GOGA)
A firefighter stands near a damaged building in Durres, after an earthquake shook Albania, December 2, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS/FLORION GOGA)
A 10-man Israeli delegation arrived in Tirana, Albania, on Tuesday to aid in reconstruction efforts following the devastating earthquakethat hit the country last week.
Led by Col. (res.) Golan Vach, head of the IDF search and rescue unit, the delegation includes officers and engineers who will examine buildings in the area to determine if they are unsafe. They will also provide the government with logistical help in dealing with the wounded.
According to the Foreign Ministry, the Albanian government has asked that the delegation visit sites damaged by the earthquake in order to provide advice on how to prevent their collapse.
The delegation also brought with it humanitarian aid, including tents for those left homeless. Israel’s ambassador in Albania, Noah Gal Gendler, is coordinating Israel’s assistance with the government authorities.
“Israel will assist its ally Albania,” said Foreign Minister Israel Katz. “The delegation is a testament to the excellent relations between the countries and the close dialogue between them for a number of years, both at the governmental level and between nations.”
Fifty-one people were killed in the quake that struck November 26. After finding shelter for more than 6,300 homeless people in hotels, gyms, tents and social centers, the government now faces the task of assessing the safety of buildings and rebuilding homes.
The 6.4-magnitude quake, Albania’s worst ever, was centered 30 km west of the capital Tirana, and was felt across the Balkans and southern Italy.
Israel and Albania established diplomatic relations in 1991 when the once-isolated Balkan country emerged from behind the Iron Curtain. Today Albania is considered a strong friend of Israel in the Balkans, and often votes for it on key international votes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the relations between the two countries when then Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama visited Jerusalem four years ago.
“We know that Albania is a good friend of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “We’re celebrating now 25 years of our relations. We know that the people of Albania are not merely good friends today of the people of Israel, but in the crucial period of the Holocaust they stood shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish people persecuted in Europe.”
Netanyahu pointed out the difference in Albania’s population before and after the Shoah.
“I think Albania is the only country whose Jewish population during the Holocaust actually grew, because of the refuge and the sanctuary and the friendship and courage shown by the people of Albania,” he said.
An estimated 200 Jews lived in the country before the war, a figure that swelled some 10 times to more than 2,000 afterward, many of them Jews who fled to the country from elsewhere in Nazi-occupied Europe.
“We never forget our friends, and we appreciate that display of humanity, civility and courage in our darkest hours,” Netanyahu said at the time.