Israel's field hospital in Ukraine is a source of pride - editorial

Israel is the first country to set up a field hospital in Ukraine.

 Sheba Medical Center prepares a field hospital to be sent to Ukraine (photo credit: SHEBA MEDICAL CENTER)
Sheba Medical Center prepares a field hospital to be sent to Ukraine
(photo credit: SHEBA MEDICAL CENTER)

The establishment of Israel’s field hospital in the town of Mostyska in western Ukraine yesterday should be a source of pride for all Israelis. The fact that tiny Israel is the first country to operate a field hospital in the war-torn country is a big deal and a testament to the Jewish state’s mission in the world – helping those in need, saving lives, healing the wounded and training others. It also reflects the Jewish precept of tikkun olam – mending the world.

The field hospital, which will serve Ukrainian refugees and locals, and will train local medical teams in telemedicine and field medical care, has been named “Kohav Meir” (Shining Star) after former prime minister Golda Meir, who was born in Ukraine and founded the Foreign Ministry’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (Mashav), which is leading the project.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett put it succinctly at the send-off ceremony for the delegation on an El Al flight that took off on Monday from Ben-Gurion Airport. “The people of Israel and the Israeli public can be proud of the contribution and the assistance of the State of Israel to the citizens of Ukraine,” he declared. “Be proud of all the actions that the State of Israel is doing: Shipments of medicine, establishing a field hospital, actions in other areas – there are not many countries acting on such a scale.”

The field hospital was established with an investment of approximately NIS 21 million and can meet the medical needs of dozens of patients on a daily basis. A joint effort of the Foreign Ministry, the Health Ministry and Sheba Medical Center, it is being funded by the Israeli government, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies and the Joint Distribution Committee.

Israel has gained a worldwide reputation for helping other countries in crisis and distress. Since the inception of its foreign aid programs 10 years after the founding of the state almost 74 years ago, Jerusalem has adopted an official humanitarian aid agenda, providing vital relief to more than 140 countries, including some with which it does not have diplomatic relations. Through various governmental organizations such as Mashav, and nongovernmental organizations such as IsraAID, Israel also has a longstanding tradition of coordinating relief to alleviate disease, hunger and poverty.

Trucks carrying equipment for Israeli field hospital in Ukraine (credit: Construction team for Kohav Meir hospital)Trucks carrying equipment for Israeli field hospital in Ukraine (credit: Construction team for Kohav Meir hospital)

In the last 26 years, the ministry says, Israel has dispatched 15 aid missions to countries afflicted by natural disasters. Upon arrival, IDF doctors have set up field hospitals in these countries, providing medical care to thousands of people in affected areas and saving many lives.

“A first response team after the devastating Haiti earthquake; decades of humanitarian assistance and capacity building in Africa; emergency medical aid and transfers into Gaza: the Israeli government and its people show exemplary levels of humanitarian aid, both internationally and locally,” the Foreign Ministry says. “Israel has a heightened sense of humanitarian awareness and responsibility.”

With aid teams ready to respond in the wake of natural or man-made disasters anywhere in the world, Israeli efforts have included a field hospital in Turkey after its 1999 earthquake, relief to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and first response aid in the wake of the 2004 tsunami centered in Indonesia. Following the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, the Israeli Flying Aid group sent a mission to provide supplies and shelter to thousands of families and in 2009, Israel medical teams offered relief to storm victims in the Philippines.

Israel’s 200-strong team was the first on the scene in 2010 after an earthquake hit Haiti, helping to save thousands of people. In 2011, following the devastating earthquakes in Japan, Israel was one of the first countries to send a medical team and set up a field clinic. These are just a few examples of Israel helping countries around the world.

“By tragic circumstance, Israel is a world leader in handling mass casualties,” the Foreign Ministry says. “No other country can dispatch search and rescue teams and field hospitals as fast and effectively.”

In these dark days in Ukraine, Israel is indeed serving as a “Shining Star” by leading the world in the Kohav Meir field hospital. It is also fulfilling Isaiah’s prophetic vision of the people of Israel serving as an Or la’Goyim – “a light unto the nations.”