These are difficult days for Israel.We are witnessing a deep split in the nation reminiscent of the days before the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin; a government deaf to the appeals of half the country and President Isaac Herzog to pause for two weeks the sprint to judicial reform and engage in dialogue; mass demonstrations; threats of strikes; hi-tech companies pulling their money out of the country; investors threatening to do the same – and all that is happening just among Jews.On the Palestinian front, there are concerns of a ramping up of terror and violence. A car bomb – apparently in the process of being assembled – blew up Monday night in Jenin, feeding the fear that we are on the cusp of an explosion of violence the likes of which Israel has not seen since the Second Intifada some 20 years ago.And, on top of everything else, Mother Nature is getting in her licks.The ground literally shook Tuesday night as an earthquake that hit near Ariel was felt by tens of thousands of people around the country. In light of the horrific earthquakes that devastated parts of Syria and Turkey on Monday and the realization that Israel is woefully unprepared to deal with a quake of these proportions, this added to the nation’s jitters and a sense of pervading gloom.Amid all that, the Israelis dispatched to Turkey to help that country deal with the earthquake provided us all with a ray of sunshine, a silver lining and a reason to be proud.
Israel's immediate response did not go unnoticed
No sooner did the earthquakes hit and the scope of the devastation become known than Israel announced it would send search-and-rescue teams and tons of humanitarian aid to Turkey.By Tuesday, an IDF Home Command team of 150 search-and-rescue personnel was already on the ground and searching through the rubble for survivors. In addition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a request from Syria came for humanitarian aid – supplies, not personnel – and that Israel would also send assistance there. The Syrians, however, later denied that such a request was ever sent.On Wednesday, Israel sent to Turkey some 230 doctors and medical specialists to operate a field hospital fully equipped with operating rooms, X-ray machines, trauma units and labs. More than two dozen other Israelis from groups like United Hatzalah and IsraAID have arrived on the scene as part of private, nongovernmental initiatives to help the Turks.“Operation Olive Branch,” as the government’s mission has been dubbed, is the 30th humanitarian aid mission Israel has dispatched abroad in the last 41 years to help countries in the aftermath of everything from devastating earthquakes to typhoons, tsunamis and terrorist attacks. Israeli aid teams have assisted in times of need in locations as diverse as Japan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Haiti, Sri Lanka, Romania, Brazil, Albania and even the United States.In the process, Israel has gained a reputation as a leader in search and rescue. While these missions might have only short-term diplomatic impact in improving ties with the countries affected, it has already had a long-term impact on promoting Israel’s good name.The head of the IDF Medical Corps, Brig.-Gen. Elon Glassberg, spoke of the decision to send the field hospital to Turkey.“The ability to send a hospital to another country is a unique ability,” he said in a video statement released by the IDF. “Few countries in the world are able to do such a thing, and we are proud to be the ones to come and help.“We have done so in the past, we will do so this time, and we will do so like we always do: with professionalism, with a sense of responsibility and with a sense of great pride.” Glassberg concluded, “We will bring pride to the State of Israel.”They already have.These delegations represent the beautiful Israel. They do not represent the Israel getting lost in all the vitriolic rhetoric surrounding the judicial reform debate. This is the Israel in which we must all take pride and to which we must return.