How Israel Makes The World A Better Place

by Andrew White, The Beyond Images Project
Beyond Images Briefing 214

published on the occasion of ‘ Israel at 60', May 2008

Click to Printclick here to print page

For most people around the world, Israel means one thing - conflict . But there's another Israel , invisible to the international media, which is making the world a better place right now for millions of people, through its medical breakthroughs, and its humanitarian activities around the world. Here are some examples:-

•  Treating child heart disease: Since 1994, the Save A Child's Heart project (SACH), based near Tel-Aviv, has treated over 1400 children from around the world to free heart operations (see ). Many are flown in from countries like Vietnam , Zanzibar and Moldova – not exactly global powers which could swing it for Israel at the UN Security Council. And over half are Arab children, mainly Gaza and West Bank Palestinians, and also from Jordan and Gulf states. Last October 40 Iraqi children were brought by their families to an improvised clinic in Amman , Jordan , where they were examined by top SACH doctors. An Iraqi boy of 11 and a girl of 5 months were rushed to Israel , and received life-saving heart surgery. Said one mother: ‘I am grateful to the Israeli doctors and to their country for helping us out…. The Israelis are not our enemies…. Many Muslims have wrong ideas about Israelis…'

•  Medical breakthroughs: Israeli medical research teams at the Weizmann Institute, the Hebrew University and elsewhere have achieved breakthroughs in areas such as cancer research, and combating Hepatitis C. Meanwhile, researchers led by Ben Gurion University Professor Yoel Margalit received an award in 2003 from a US foundation for their work fighting malaria – one of the world's worst killers. In the awards ceremony, Margalit was credited with saving ‘millions of lives'. For stories about Israeli medical advances, see the superb website Israel21c ( ).

•  Curing blindness, purifying water, helping survivors of disasters: Israel 's Foreign Ministry, through its Mashav division, sends Israeli experts to Africa and Asia to perform cataract operations and restore the sight of blind people. Meanwhile, Israelis have become world leaders in purifying water – a critical tool for reducing child mortality in the third world. The book ‘ Israel in the World' by Helen and Douglas Davis (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2003, and a ‘must-read' in this area) describes an Israeli-led water purification project in rural Afghanistan . Israel 's efforts to relieve suffering after the Asian tsunami of 2004 were one example of how it helps survivors of natural disasters. See the remarkable Isra-Aid website ( ) for information on many similar projects.

•  Fighting climate change and the spread of deserts: Israel is contributing significantly to the worldwide fight against climate change. Its solar energy sector is pioneering. It's also at the forefront of combatting so-called ‘desertification' - the spread of deserts and destruction of forests and farmland. Israeli start-ups and universities are involved in introducing energy-efficient technologies for cars and factories. And the UN General Assembly recently adopted a resolution on ‘green' agricultural development - proposed by Israel .

•  Support for the needy: Yad Sarah , Israel 's largest volunteer organisation, lends equipment to people recovering from illness, expectant mothers, and others. It now runs seminars for delegates from around the world in how to build such organisations in their countries. Keren Malki ( ) (founded by the parents of a teenage victim of a Palestinian suicide bomber) provides equipment for families with disabled children – again, a model in its field.

Unfortunately, many people have a deeply-rooted anti-Israel ‘mindset'. And stories about the ‘other Israel ' are not going to shift this overnight. But this shouldn't stop us from educating the wider world that there is another side to Israel, and that the country is in fact helping to fulfil many of the universal values which people – including Israel's vocal critics - believe in. Such facts can foster admiration for Israel in the longer-term, and make people more receptive to Israel 's rights, qualities and humanitarian ideals.