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Israel Offers a Hand to Japan

March 14, 2011
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A small Israeli crew is expected to leave Israel for Japan immediately to report back where their help can best be applied.

IsraAID is a non-profit umbrella group that gathers Israeli humanitarian and relief workers from 17 different organizations to lend medical aid, search and rescue help, and disaster relief at some of the world’s biggest disaster sites, such a last year’s earthquake in Haiti.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Israel’s assistance immediately. The “people of Israel express their deep sorrow over the tragedy in Japan, and…will work to provide any help that will be required,” he said. Israel–Japan relations first began in 1952, when Japan recognized Israel as a state. Since 1963, Japan and Israel have maintained an embassy-level relationship.

According to a local report by Yedioth International’s Ynet News, the Japanese consul in Israel, Mitoshiko Shinomya, said it was too early for him to assess where Israel could help: “Israel officially offered its help an hour after the earthquake struck,” he was quoted as saying. “It is very heart-warming, but at this point, we do not know exactly what the extent of the damage is, so it is difficult for us to say what can be done.”

With a unit already based in nearby Hong Kong, Israel’s voluntary search-and-rescue organization, ZAKA, said it would also send a team of volunteers trained in Israel to Japan. One ZAKA staffer in Hong Kong was expected to leave by Saturday night [March 12].

The group, whose Hebrew acronym stands for “Disaster Victims Identification,” is recognized by the United Nations for disaster relief and has worked in New Orleans after the hurricane, in Thailand after the major tsunami, and most recently in Haiti. Its core experience comes from dealing with the aftermath of terror attacks and other disasters in Israel.

Israel’s experience in water management also is expected to be helpful in the coming weeks as Japan attempts to restore disrupted services. The days following an earthquake and natural disaster of this magnitude are critical—not only for rescuing those buried under the rubble, but in getting much-needed medical aid and fresh water to survivors.

As of Saturday night, there were six Israelis still unaccounted for in Japan—five business people and a tourist. Communications systems have been knocked out, making it hard to establish contact via phone or email in some regions.

Posted on March 14, 2011

Source: (Excerpts of an article by Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c, March 13, 2011)

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