I call it positive. Incredibly so. Not happy — in fact, unspeakably painful. But a Kiddush HaShem: a blessing on G-d’s name.
In the midst of the overwhelming death and destruction that is Haiti right now, there are Israelis who have come to save lives and offer succor.
On Friday, El Al and IDF planes came into Haiti, carrying 250 medical personnel — doctors, nurses, lab and x-ray technicians and even a psychiatrist — and supplies for a mobile hospital, including a pharmacy, a surgical unit, and a maternity ward. A young Haitian mother who was the first to deliver in this ward, early this morning, named her baby Israel.
You can see footage of an IDF rescue team at work in Haiti here:
Members of ZAKA, the Israeli ultra-Orthodox volunteer rescue organization, were on the scene as well. Yesterday, on Shabbat, they labored, digging in the rubble of a collapsed multi-story university building, where cries were heard. After hours of effort, they succeeded in pulling eight students from that rubble, alive.
These ZAKA members then took time, in the midst of the chaos, to wrap themselves in their tallitot (prayer shawls) and recite their Shabbat prayers. Undoubtedly most if not all of the Haitians on the scene had never seen such a sight.
When the men had finished praying, a crowd of people gathered around them and kissed their tallitot.
According to one report, head of the ZAKA mission, Mati Goldstein said:
“With all the hell going on outside, even when things get bad Judaism says we must take a deep breath and go on to save more people.
“We did everything to save lives, despite Shabbat. People asked, ‘Why are you here? There are no Jews here’, but we are here because the Torah orders us to save lives…”
At one point, when things were very grim, Goldstein reported that one mission member started to sing, Heveinu Shalom Aleichem (We bring peace to you.) “I had tears in my eyes,” he said.
The ZAKA mission will be staying in Haiti a couple more days, even though beyond a certain point it is highly unlikely that anyone else will be found alive under the rubble.
What is exceedingly important to the mission is making their Israeli identity very clear. And so, in this regard, you can help Israel by sharing this broadly and letting the world know what we are all about.
I leave off writing here (and save other news for another day), so this can be circulated, sharing simply this important news.