Behind the Headlines Israeli Rescue Team in El Salvador
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Behind the Headlines Israeli Rescue Team in El Salvador

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A two-member Israeli rescue team that went to El Salvador to help the victims of the devastating earthquake there October 10 said they “encountered scenes of terrible destruction and human agony. Many efforts were made to save trapped children, men and women under the rubble caused by the earthquake — but many people are still trapped and in urgent need of help, if they are still alive.”

This situation was described by Col. (Res.) Gavriel Rappaport, a former head of the Israel Defense Force rescue unit, and Moshe Rubin, an agronomist who established the Israel Agency to Save Human Lives, in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency upon their arrival here from El Salvador a few days ago.

The two men stayed in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador and the city hit hardest by the quake, for three days evaluating the rescue efforts of teams from various countries and those from El Salvador and advising the authorities on how to streamline the efforts to save more lives. More than 1,000 people were reported killed in the earthquake.

Reppaport said he gained a vast knowledge of how to help disaster victims during his army service that included rescue efforts of Israeli soldiers trapped in a building in Tyre, Lebanon, after a gas container exploded and destroyed the building. More than 70 soldiers and 30 Arab terrorists who were being held in a detention area in the building were killed and scores of Israelis were burned in that 1983 disaster. Rappaport also participated in rescue efforts following the 1985 earthquake in Mexico and last month’s earthquake in Greece.


The two Israeli volunteers arrived in El Salvador with a half ton of medical supplies for the earthquake victims sent by the Israeli government.

“Upon our arrival we received a letter from the Salvadorian authorities and a pass permit to the devastated areas. The rescue efforts there were going slowly. In many cases there was lack of proper equipment, such as heavy bulldozers and cranes to clear the rubble and free the trapped victims,” Rubin said.

The effort of the Israeli team, however small in size, did not go unnoticed. The picture of the two appeared in the El Salvador daily El Diario De Hoy with a short story on their efforts to help.

“We believe that such efforts by Israelis can help Israel’s image around the world. Israel is pictured as a militaristic state. We want to show the true face of the people of Israel who care about human life and are ready to extend humanitarian help wherever and whenever need,” said Rubin, who is a member of Kibbutz Hulata, north of the Sea of Galilee. Rappaport, a member of Kibbutz Beit Alfa in the Jezreel Valley, nodded in agreement.

The two said they were late in reaching El Salvador because it took time to raise money for the trip. They said the Israel Agency to Save Human Lives, which sponsored their trip, is newly formed and has almost no financial resources at present. “Originally we had a team of four–with a doctor and an expert on rescue dogs–but for financial reasons we had to do with only a two-member rescue team,” they said.

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