Monday, January 03, 2005

Israeli Teams at Tsunami sites

From Arutz Sheva 2/1/05, about Israeli reaction to tsunami....

"Finding and identifying four bodies out of thousands of bodies lying here is something no one else was able to do." So says Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, head of the Zaka rescue-and-recovery organization.

"The Israeli delegation [in southeast Asia] has become famous," Meshi-Zahav told Yediot Acharonot. "All the other countries are looking for us, a small country with our relatively small delegation, to get advice."

The Israeli delegation, headed by Police Identification Department Head Shalom Tzarum, together with the Zaka volunteers, managed to do what no other country came close to doing. "We're the only national delegation here among the bodies," Meshi-Zahav said. "No other country has shown such concern for its citizens."

While Israel's Foreign Ministry offices were manned 24 hours a day last week fielding phone calls and trying to locate 1,700 Israelis vacationing in Thailand and the vicinity, one of the first things Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds did upon learning of the tsunami was to go to the opera. She did not show up for work until 31 hours after the earthquake. The Swedish government estimates that more than 20,000 of its citizens were in Thailand when the tidal wave struck. In addition to the 60 confirmed dead, 3,559 Swedes were still missing as of last night.

Four Israelis have been confirmed dead in the tsunami disaster. In addition to the previously identified victims Hemda Cohen and Sharon Haliel, two more have been added to the list of confirmed dead: Zohar Aloni, 24, from Rehovot, and Esther Levy, 58, from Raanana. Three of the four will be buried in Israel today. Of the five Israelis who remained missing as of last night, two were located safe and sound this morning.

Many volunteer organizations in Israel are banding together to collect donations of goods, funds and other aid for the tsunami-stricken areas. The National Council for Volunteerism, with the cooperation of other organizations including Magen David Adom, the Kibbutz Movement and Latet (To Give), will send a shipment of tons of humanitarian aid and food in the coming days. Donations can be made (in Israel) by calling 057-740-0030.

The government of Sri Lanka, the island country south of India whose death toll is nearing 30,000, sent a letter of thanks to Israel for its help. The Sri Lankan ambassador in the United Nations, sent a letter to his Israeli counterpart Danny Gillerman denying that his country had refused Israeli help for political reasons. "The Sri Lankan government and people," he wrote, "greatly appreciate the help that Israel granted us in this time of distress, in the form of food, medical equipment and rescue forces." He explained that the reason his government asked Israel to "temporarily delay the arrival of the 150-man team" was because the tsunami had destroyed the country's ability to host foreigners, including hotels, and had closed off the vicinity of the airport. "The Sri Lankan authorities are interested in leaving the door open for the arrival of additional Israeli experts when necessary," the ambassador wrote.