The Indian Ocean 'tsunami':
Israel's disaster relief efforts

Published: 3 January 2005
Briefing Number 125

Click to Printclick here to print page

This Briefing describes Israeli disaster relief efforts following the calamitous Indian Ocean ‘tsunamis’ of 26 December 2004.

On 26 December 2004, a massive undersea earthquake occurred in the Eastern Indian Ocean, off the Indonesian coast. The quake triggered giant waves (‘tsunamis’) which struck coastal areas in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and other countries, as well as Indian Ocean islands, with devastating force.

Over 140,000 people were killed, with thousands more missing. Communities and towns were wiped out. Millions were left homeless and threatened by disease and hunger, prompting a huge humanitarian relief operation. This Briefing describes Israel’s disaster relief efforts following these events. (Sources: agency reports, Jerusalem Post, Israel’s Foreign Ministry website)

  • Massive airlift of emergency supplies within 48 hours: Israel’s Defence Ministry sent a plane to Sri Lanka loaded with 80 tons of emergency supplies, together with a team of 50 Israeli medical and rescue personnel, within 48 hours of the disaster. The supplies included tens of thousands of bottles of drinking water, 12 tons of food, 17 tons of baby food, nine tons of medicines, blankets, mattresses, beds and electricity generators.

  • Top class Israeli medical team flies out: A top level medical team from Israel’s internationally renowned Hadassah hospital arrived in Sri Lanka on 27 December, including the hospital’s head of general surgery, the head of its trauma unit, its chief of pediatrics, and two anaesthetists

  • Israeli voluntary organisation Latet despatches supplies: On 28 December, the Israeli voluntary organisation Latet (“to give”) filled a jumbo jet with 18 tons of supplies contributed by the public. An Israeli company donated 250,000 water purification tablets, to help provide tsunami survivors with safe drinking water.

  • Magen David Adom sends medicines for treating the seriously injured: On 29 December, Israel’s equivalent to the Red Cross, Magen David Adom, donated a planeload of medicines to Sri Lanka for the treatment of seriously injured tsunami victims, and those suffering malnourishment

  • Rescue team sent to Thailand: An Israeli Health Ministry team of doctors and nurses was sent to Thailand to aid rescue efforts

  • Search and rescue team offered to India: Israel offered a search-and-rescue team to India, together with consignments of food and medicine.

  • International fund-raising efforts: Several Israeli and diaspora Jewish organisations launched emergency appeals for funds to aid longer term relief and reconstruction

Note: Sri Lanka declines Israeli offer of a fully staffed field hospital: Sri Lanka’s government turned down an offer from Israel to provide a fully staffed and equipped 150-person military field hospital. The plan was called off hours before the plane was due to take off from Israel. Sri Lanka claimed that the decision was taken because it “had enough medical personnel” and nurses and “what it needed were supplies”.

Our conclusion: Israel’s citizens yearn to be fully accepted among the family of nations. Israel has often been one of the quickest to respond to third world disasters, with practical and expert help. Recent examples include Colombia, Honduras and Georgia.... and now the Indian Ocean catastrophe.

Israel’s efforts remain virtually unreported around the world. Could it be that for some journalists and critics, such reports would convey a humane and charitable side to Israel, which runs counter to the negative images which underlie so much media coverage of the country?