For the past three years, death has become a way of life for Syrian civilians, who are caught in the throes of a brutal civil war. Last year, the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] set up a field hospital to treat wounded Syrian civilians near the northern border.
Regardless of the tense relations between Israel and Syria, who are still officially at war, IDF soldiers have continued to apply a core Jewish value: “Whoever saves one life, saves the entire world.”
Seven wounded civilians from Syria approached Israel’s border in urgent need of help. Colonel Tariff Bader, a Druze officer, heads an Israeli field hospital near the border. “They arrived on Shabbat and were treated by the same people who treat IDF soldiers in the Golan Heights,” Col. Bader explained. “The ethical code of the IDF Medical Corps clearly states that soldiers must assist anyone who is sick or wounded—whether they are associated with the enemy or not.” The incident on the border began the IDF’s extraordinary mission to assist Syrian civilians in need.
In the past, mortar fire from Syria has wounded IDF soldiers in Israel. Despite the dangers of their work, soldiers risk their lives to treat Syrian victims. In many cases, medical forces must treat Syrian patients without any knowledge of their medical histories or health conditions. Despite the absence of cooperation between Israeli and Syrian medical services, some patients arrive with notes from Syrian doctors describing recommended care. These notes, written in Arabic or English, have become the only form of communication between doctors from the two countries.
While discussing the relationship between Israeli soldiers and Syrian victims, Col. Bader explained that their connection is quickly strengthening. “The Syrian people trust us now,” he said. “During the first month or so, they were a little hesitant to come to Israel. Today that is no longer the case.” Once the patients return to Syria, any evidence of their presence in Israel can put their lives in grave danger. In order to keep the civilians safe, the IDF takes painstaking measures to remove any indication that they received care in Israel.
This is not Col. Bader’s first time representing a major humanitarian effort as an IDF soldier. He was also a part of the IDF delegation to Haiti in 2010. Whenever he speaks publicly, he is clearly moved by his experiences. “I feel exactly the same about the lives we save on our own border,” he concluded. “It fills me with pride to accomplish this mission.”
Photo Credit: IDF/Flickr.com (illustrative)
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