Rather than celebrating the Jewish New Year with the nation of Israel last week, a 71-person delegation of Israeli soldiers flew to Mexico to provide urgently needed disaster relief after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake.
The IDF delegation, sent by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following a request for aid from the Mexican authorities, was made up of soldiers and reservists from three army teams: search and rescue, engineers, and medical personnel.
“Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers was fortunate to have a Yahad-Mexico branch,” said Brigadier General Yehiel Gozal, CEO of Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers, the only organization sanctioned by the Israeli government and Ministry of Defense to provide soldier welfare.
He told Breaking Israel News, “We immediately set into motion our teams to ensure that the soldiers have all they need to perform their duties safely and would have the food, housing and resources that they need, including for the High Holidays.”
IDF search and rescue teams have been going house to house searching for victims, both alive and dead. IDF engineers are tasked with checking the security of affected buildings and letting people know if they may return to their homes, offices and schools. IDF medical teams are on call should extra staff be required to treat the wounded and shell-shocked.
“The Israeli army is known for their outstanding and efficient pop-up field hospitals, which have given aid following natural disasters in Turkey, Nepal, Haiti, Japan, the Philippines and even Syrian refugees who make it to Israel’s border,” continued Gozal. “However, thus far, Mexico has not requested field hospitals, though part of Yahad’s budget ensures that medical and other supplies are well stocked and ready to go worldwide should the need arise.”
During natural disasters worldwide, Yahad has funded such items as incubators, especially since there tends to be an increase in births during crises, respirators, rescue gear for IDF teams, clothing, hygiene packages, food, housing, toys for children and more.
Thus far, the death toll from Mexico’s earthquake is at least 320. As finding survivors following an earthquake in building ruins declines sharply after three days, the IDF delegation received orders to fly out of Israel just before the Jewish New Year began.
“I received the call to go to Mexico on the eve of Rosh Hashana,” Major Shay Z., of the IDF search and rescue team, told Breaking Israel News. “My wife gave birth to a son two weeks ago and it was a very emotional decision to leave Israel both for the High Holidays and also my family and new baby. However, we all realized that it is a honor to represent Israel as messengers who save lives all over the world. I had to go.”
Rabbi Yaakov Haber, head of congregation Kehillat Shivtei Yeshurun, in Ramat Beit Shemesh in central Israel, told Breaking Israel News, “It is a Jewish obligation to take care of the welfare of every human being worldwide. This is what God wants from the Jewish people.”
Thus, Yahad earmarks a certain portion of their donated funds to provide aid to those around-the-world struck by disaster. “Israel, and especially the IDF, prays for peace and safety for all. But, we must always be prepared for the worst,” said Gozal.
With 98 percent of Mexico City’s buildings needing safety inspections, including over 20,000 homes, Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera stated that the city has received 11,200 requests for property inspections and has completed almost 70 percent of them, much due to the help of the Israeli engineers.
“IDF engineers are well versed in the use of the Israel invented ‘Camero Tech’, a device which detects objects through walls and is generally used for military and law enforcement missions,” noted Gozal. “It’s a miracle that the device was sold years ago to the Mexican government and now has been used to find people trapped in rubble from the earthquake.”
The help that the Israeli delegation has provided has not gone unrecognized by the Mexican people. As IDF soldiers walked through the streets of Mexico, a video was made showing people spontaneously applauding their efforts.
“This IDF aid mission is called the ‘Voice of the Shofar for the Distance’ for good reason,” expressed Gozal to Breaking Israel News. “The shofar is a special horn blown on the High Holidays to wake us up to do good in the world. That is what our brave and dedicated IDF soldiers have done in Mexico and that is what they do every day in Israel.”
The present delegation is expected to return to Israel before the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, September 29. There is another team of 70 IDF soldiers on call to assist Mexico should the need arise.
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