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Love Thy Enemies—From Warnings to Healings, Israel Provides

February 1, 2013
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Aiding Enemy Civilians


For years, Israel has been helping the less fortunate of the less friendly. As the controllers of two of the main entrances to the Gaza Strip, the Jewish state facilitates the entrance of trucks carrying food, fuel, construction materials, and medical supplies into the Palestinian-controlled coastal enclave. On occasion, Israel does close the entrances, but how many times are the closures due to Gazan rocket attacks that threaten the crossings themselves. The day after those dozens of trucks entered Gaza on November 18, the main aid crossing was closed “due to Hamas rocket fire towards the crossing,” according to a report on the website for the Israeli military wing that handles aid with the Palestinians. The Israeli Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) branch posts on their website weekly summaries of the aid that enters the Gaza Strip through Israeli-controlled crossings.


During the week of November 18–24, which included several days of fighting between Israel and the Gaza-leading Hamas organization, Israel ultimately facilitated entry of the following into enemy territory:

  • 10 truckloads of meat, chicken, and fish products;
  • 39 truckloads of produce;
  • a total of 143 truckloads of food products;
  • 24 truckloads of medicine and medical equipment; and
  • 5 truckloads of hygiene products.

In all, Israel enabled 237 truckloads carrying 6,322 tons of supplies into Gaza during a week that was largely characterized by conflict. And Gaza during that same week? The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokeperson’s blog reported the following:

  • 156 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza on November 18;
  • 143 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza on November 19;
  • 221 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza on November 20;
  • 130 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza on November 21 before the ceasefire took effect at 9:00 p.m. local time (additional rockets were fired despite the deal);
  • totaling more than 650 rockets during the week.

While the IDF was busy during that week bombing various terrorist sites in Gaza, that’s precisely how a nation responds in self-defense to hundreds of rockets fired at their civilians for years. But it’s truly remarkable that the IDF enabled the transport of more than nine tons of supplies for enemy civilians for every rocket fired by that enemy at Israel. The month prior to the operation, COGAT reported that 5,400 truckloads entered Gaza from Israeli-controlled crossings. And that itself was impressive, as the increase in Gazan terrorism and violence against Israel, which really began during October 2012, set the stage for Operation Pillar of Defense. While Egypt too has a crossing into Gaza, and while Israel could leave all of the entrance of aid in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, it is Israel that chooses to be their brother’s keeper. And sometimes that keeping is in a truly life-and-death sense.

Safeguarding Enemy Civilians

Over the past 60 years, Western nations have sought to implement efforts to prevent collateral casualties in conflict. But tragically those cannot be prevented in whole. Bombs miss their targets. Intelligence is faulty. Civilians enter conflict zones. Crucial targets are in civilian areas. The NATO-led war in Afghanistan has seen thousands of civilians killed. Even the bombing campaign against Serbia in the 1990s wasn’t without mishap: a US bombing run somehow struck the Chinese embassy.

Photo by Israel Defense Forces

In light of the inherent danger to civilians that any conflict poses, it should not be surprising that Israel has methods in place to reduce civilian casualties. But those efforts stand in stark contrast to the methods used by Gazan terrorists to place their own civilians at risk. During Operation Pillar of Defense, the IDF Spokesperson’s blog reported that Israel made thousands of phone calls to Gazans “warning them of IDF strikes in the area.” The same blog also noted that leaflets were airdropped over Gaza issuing a general warning to stay away from terrorist operatives and facilities.

That’s a great gesture, and doubtless one that mirrors efforts from the United States and others to minimize collateral casualties. But the IDF also said they dropped leaflets on November 20 that told specific Gaza regions not only to evacuate, but specifically where in Gaza to go to be safe. As IDF spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich told The Mideast Update in an interview after Pillar of Defense, “How many militaries, during an operation, tell their enemy where exactly they are going to operate next?” Israel’s pride in avoiding civilian casualties doesn’t mean that they brush off the dead civilians. Rather, it was those efforts by the IDF that kept the figure as low as it was, because Hamas certainly takes their civilians for granted—if not worse.

It is terrorists in Gaza that place long-range rockets capable of targeting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in a soccer stadium in Gaza. It is terrorists in Gaza that place rocket launchers near civilian buildings. It is terrorists in Gaza who have stored weapons under mosques, and it is terrorists in Gaza who have fired rockets from locations near school buildings. Yet, while Gazan terrorists have a made habit of putting their own civilians in harm’s way, it is the IDF that has made it a habit of protecting the very enemy civilians so neglected by their own leaders. But it’s not as though that attitude is unique to the IDF. Israel’s medical community has also made a habit of helping civilians from enemy regions.

Healing Enemy Civilians

Israel is a world-leader in medical care and technology. Conceived by brilliant Israeli innovators, honed by tragic necessity in the conflict-ridden Middle East, the medical advancement of the Jewish state is renowned. On occasion, that news cracks closed borders and reaches the ears and hearts of seriously-ill patients in nations that have no relations with Israel. Considering the anti-Israeli sentiment publicized by those states’ governments and media against Israel, it would be easy for Israel to simply turn those needy patients away until the environment improved. But that wouldn’t be what the Jewish state embodies as a nation that sees human lives as precious.

One particularly noteworthy hospital in Israel is the Rambam Medical Center. Home to medical research and a range of facilities, Rambam is impressive just in the medical care it offers. Making it even more special is that it makes a point of extending that care to patients from enemy nations, or the Palestinians in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria], and the Gaza Strip. From cancer treatment to kidney dialysis, Rambam is saving lives of civilians whose home governments are not at peace with Israel. “I don’t see any borders for medicine,” Prof. Rafi Beyar, Rambam’s CEO & director-general told The Mideast Update in an interview.

Photo by Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Altogether, Rambam has helped children from Iraq, a patient from Abu Dhabi, and students from Syria. While the numbers of foreign Arab patients may be small in comparison to the thousands of sick in Muslim countries, remember that Rambam is typically providing exceptional care that the patients can’t receive in their home nations. Remember too, that the overwhelming majority of Middle East countries don’t have full relations with Israel, and are effectively, if not actively, enemy states. Beyar says his hope and vision is that the now-occasional work Rambam does for patients from Muslim countries will grow. “Obviously the political situation doesn’t let it develop very fast, but I do have a vision. Why does a patient from Qatar have to go all the way to the Mayo Clinic, if he can get the same quality of treatment at Rambam?” he asks.

Closer to home, Rambam Health Care Campus says they typically have 1,000–1,500 patients from the Palestinian Authority (PA) per year, mostly children. Palestinian patients come from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, from whence the PA has launched a diplomatic campaign against Israel at the United Nations and elsewhere, not to mention ongoing anti-Israel incitement from their media and officials. Yet, Rambam has coordinated with the PA to arrange for West Bank kids to receive treatment in Israel.

Baby is cared for by Israeli doctor. Photo by Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In addition, Beyar said that medical professionals come from the West Bank and Gaza for training. “A hospital is a place where coexistence is an example, and I do hope that everybody learns from that,” said Beyar. “…It has been a tradition for many years at Rambam that we treat everybody with the same patience and love.” He notes that “below the surface” of the conflict, there are a number of relationships between Palestinians and Israelis, ranging from business to medicine.

A particularly touching example of the powerful symbol of coexistence at Israel’s Rambam hospital is in the cancer ward. Patients from Arab lands aren’t segregated from their Jewish counterparts, which makes for some poignant interaction. “You sometimes even see children from Gaza and Israel with cancer lighting up together like candles of Hanukkah. These things happen, all singing together,” said Beyar. “When everybody is in a hospital and needs treatment for diseases, hostility goes away and patients get the same treatment.” To further show the measure of intentionality in Israel’s work with the sick from unfriendly regions, Beyar said that the medical cooperation with the Palestinians receives money from the Weill Israeli–Palestinian Friendship Center fund. And Beyar said that the Israeli government not only is aware of the medical outreach, he thinks the government “even encourages” the effort, and he notes the coordination with the security bodies to bring in patients from Gaza.

Professionally, Rambam also reaches out. Their annual paramedic trauma training seminar that brings in medical personnel from all over the world, has also brought in staff from Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, which has not yet established full official diplomatic relations with Israel. Furthermore, even medical professionals who receive training in outright enemy states are to be treated fairly. Beyar said that if a doctor should come to work at Rambam who has successfully graduated from medical school in neighboring Syria, that medical license would be approved.

Loving Enemy Civilians

True love is defined not by words, but by action. Israel has actively demonstrated its love for humanity by reaching out even to its enemies—even during conflict. Prof. Beyar said that during Operation Pillar of Defense, another Israeli hospital actually treated a wounded Gazan. The Jewish state is making a real effort at fulfilling the biblical dictum to love more than just those that love them back. As the sun rises over the just and the unjust, Israel, too, is a shining example of “love thy neighbor”—even when that neighbor is also an enemy.

Source: By Joshua Spurlock, The Mideast Update

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