Just as a cholera treatment center in Haiti was shut down on Tuesday because neighbors violently protested against it, a team from the Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid (IsraAID) prepared to return to that devastated country. (Members had been attending U.N. meetings about the epidemic.)
According to Wednesday’s New York Times, the cholera outbreak “has killed at least 284 people nationwide and sickened 3,700.” Cholera, an intestinal infection that spreads rapidly, is a scourge of third-world countries, where sanitation tends to be poor.
Israeli medical personnel have been in Haiti almost from the first day of the earthquake, in January, saving lives and – literally – limbs.
According to a dispatch from IsraAID on the website of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Over this 10-month period, IsraAID teams have provided various essential services to thousands affected by the earthquake, including emergency medical treatment, primary family medical care, medical rehabilitation, informal education, food production, women empowerment, and children safe-spaces programs.”
But the Israelis’ heroic efforts helped more than suffering Haitians; they demonstrated Israel’s expertise and compassion. Broadcast across television screens to an often skeptical, often hostile world, they gained respect for Israel, even if grudging. It is hard to argue against the existence of a state when that state proves – over and over, as Israel does – its moral and practical worth in the world arena.
And yet, of course, the argument is out there, most notably on college campuses, where the next generation of world leaders is being groomed. The boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign has become so invidious and so visible that it is recognized by its initials.
Jewish organizations have been pondering how to counter this threat – which threatens to marginalize pro-Israel American Jews as well. They are joining forces to create the Israel Action Network, which will create strategies and materials to bolster the case we must all make for Israel.
As for IsraAid, members will attend the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly in New Orleans next month, bringing an IDF medical tent that was used in Haiti. According to Israel’s foreign ministry website, “The tent was â€¦ donated to IsraAID, which turned it into the first official school operating in the camps of Port-au-Prince.”