IDF team returns home from Haiti

JERUSALEM — The 200-member Israeli military medical and rescue team was honoured upon its return to Israel from Haiti last week.

The team had been among the first aid workers to arrive in the country following the devastating earthquake that hit there on Jan. 12.

“You raised peoples’ spirits; you raised the name of the State of Israel and the name of the [Israel Defence Forces]. Precisely during these days, during which there are those who conspire against us and distort and degrade the name of the IDF and the name of the State of Israel, you showed the world the true spirit of the IDF,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday morning during an official military ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport.

The ceremony was attended by senior officials of both the IDF and the government.

“You have merited praise from all over the world and have turned into a source of pride for every Jew and every Israeli,” said Chief of the General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. “Lately there have been those who complain about the IDF and have chosen to muddy its face and complain against its morals and ethics. In your work, you have proven the opposite to be true – our values guide us to cross continents in order to save lives. That is what guides us today and will continue to guide us in the future.”

“As commander of this army, I was excited to represent you,” Ashkenazi said.

The IDF made the decision to pull out after the arrival of more aid forces to Haiti, as well as U.S. military, and civilian aid organizations. Several Haitian hospitals are also operating in some capacity, the army said.

The team left more than 30 tons of medical equipment and supplies in Haiti to help further earthquake relief efforts, according to the IDF, including bandaging gear, surgery equipment, two incubators and other medical accessories, as well as 1,150 blankets, 30 large-sized tents, 500 mattresses, 200 sleeping bags and kitchen equipment. The equipment will be distributed to tent cities throughout Haiti, co-ordinated by the Israeli ambassador in the country.

During its stay in Haiti, the delegation treated more than 1,100 patients, conducted 319 successful surgeries, delivered 16 babies, including three caesarean sections, and saved many from the ruins of the devastating earthquake.

The team also brought a five-year-old Haitian child to have heart surgery in Israel, according to the IDF.