The Mitzvah Of Helping Victims In Nepal


Our hearts go out to the victims of the earthquake in Nepal.

When natural disaster strikes people virtually anywhere in the world, among the first responders are representatives of the Jewish people. Led by the Jewish state. Over the years, Israel has reached out to countries in need whose citizens are Christian, Muslim, Shinto, or as in the case of last week’s disaster centered in Nepal, Hindu and Buddhist. (See story on page 27.)

Within hours of the 7.8-magnitude tremors, the Israeli army, and a wide range of Israeli medical and emergency response agencies were arranging to dispatch teams of soldiers and physicians, and life-saving supplies to the part of Asia where the death toll early this week exceeded 4,000. This, in addition to the equipment and volunteers under the auspices of numerous Jewish organizations in the diaspora, from UJA-Federation of New York to Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries based in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital.

Sadly, just as surely as Israel’s soldiers and private citizens provide an example of rapid, selfless, nonsectarian humanitarian aid, the enemies of Israel seize the opportunity to question Israel’s motives. The Israeli response was little more than a gimmick to boost Jerusalem’s international image, according to the anti-Israel website. It alleged that Israel is ignoring “reconstruction” in Gaza following last year’s Hamas-instigated fighting while serving those far away.

The criticism of Israel is both expected and irrelevant — the record of Israel, and of the Jewish community here, through a wide range of social service agencies, is one of which to be proud.

On Monday, the Israel Defense Forces sent a 260-member emergency response team — on a pair of rented 747 jumbo jets — to Nepal to set up a field hospital, mobile operating rooms and a search-and-rescue team.

In past years, the IDF has done similar rescue work in Haiti, the Philippines and Japan.

“This is the real face of Israel — a state that comes to assist those far away at moments like these,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the departing soldiers.

Once again, world Jewry has shown that it takes to heart the advice of Hillel, the Talmudic sage who said: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am [only] for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

The when was last week, when the tragedy occurred. And as a community, we answered correctly.