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Israel Humanitarian Operations:
IDF Relief Efforts Around the World

Earthquake Relief in Mexico

On September 19th and 20th, 1985, two fierce earthquakes shook Mexico's capital, Mexico City. The earthquakes left in their wake thousands of homes demolished, in which thousands of people lay trapped. In the wake of this disaster, it was decided that an IDF relief mission would be sent to Mexico City, along with tons of humanitarian equipment — medicines and tents, rescue equipment, professional rescue teams from the IDF's Rescue Unit and medical teams.

Earthquake Relief in Armenia

On December 7, 1988, a powerful earthquake hit Armenia and destroyed many towns across the entire country, leaving tens of thousands dead and injured, and many homeless. Around the world humanitarian aid missions were assembled, and they assisted the government of the USSR not only in rescuing and evacuating the injured, but also in distributing basic supplies.  Israel too sent an aid mission, which included a rescue unit comprised of rescuers, doctors and much needed supplies for the refugees.

Terror Relief in Argentina

On March 17, 1992, a powerful bomb blast rocked the Israeli embassy building in Buenos Aires. The blast caused the collapse of the four-story building. Twenty-nine people were killed in the explosion and 250 were injured, many of them buried alive. Israel dispatched a Homefront Command rescue team and doctors, who were assisted by tracking dogs. The mission helped to extricate and thereby save the lives of many people buried under the collapsed building.

Civil War Relief in Rwanda

Bloody civil war broke out in Rwanda in 1994 between the Hutu and the Tutsi tribes. The fighting cost one million people their lives. As a result of the war, millions of refugees were concentrated in refugee camps in neighboring countries. On June 23 the IDF flew a medical team comprised of doctors, medical staff, medical supplies, food and clothing to assist the refugees concentrated in proximity to the city of Goma in Zaire. To ensure the security of the medical team, a unit of Givati Brigade soldiers was also sent. Some 270 IDF soldiers and officers spent 40 days in the field hospital at the refugee camp, and provided medical and humanitarian aid.

Fire Relief in Turkey

On July 4, 1997, a huge fire broke out in a number of Turkish arms factories. The Turkish government turned to the The Israeli Air Force and asked for assistance in putting it out. The IAF sent assistance in the form of fire-fighting helicopters and sophisticated equipment. With the Israeli aid, Turkish efforts to put out the fire, which was threatening to engulf the adjacent city, were successful. The IAF received much praise for the successful aid.

Eye From Zion

The Eye From Zion organization is a group of Israeli doctors who volunteer their time free of charge to provide emergency medical treatments to underpriveleged peoples around the globe. The doctors perform surgeries along with local medical teams, and provide hope for underserved and impoverished individuals. The Eye From Zion has run many relief missions to since 2007, and has served people from China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and the Maldives.

In August 2015 the Eye From Zion organization travelled to Kyrgyzstan and performed restorative optical procedures on 90 individuals. The doctors performed cataract surgeries, tumor removals, cornea surgeries, and various plastic surgeries on the grateful patients.

Eye From Zion held a clinic in Kenya during late August 2017, during which they performed free surgeries to remove cataracts and correct astigmatism on 723 patients.   

Flood Relief in the U.K.

Four members of the IsraAID humanitarian relief organization arrived in the United Kingdom on January 5, 2016, to offer help for victims of floods. Citizens expressed gratitude as the IsraAID team repaired structural damage on homes, and distributed blankets and food to individuals who were forced to flee their houses.

Middle East Migrant Crisis

IsraAID worked closely with Greece, Italy, and other countries directly affected by the 2015 Middle East migrant crisis, to bring food, supplies, and medical attention to the refugees as they arrived. IsraAID has been actively responding to the ongoing migrant crisis with training, support, supplies, and distribution capabilities, since 2012.

Japan, Ecuador Earthquakes

In April 2016 multiple deadly earthquakes rocked Japan and Ecuador, and IsraAID was there to assist with humanitarian aid and various supplies. Israeli relief workers opened child care centers and mobile health clinics in Japan for those affected by the disaster, and offered medical treatment, shelter, psychological assistance, and other resources to the Ecuadoran victims. IsraAID set up a field hospital to assist victims of the earthquake in Ecuador on April 23, 2016.

Flood Relief in Louisiana

An 8-person IsraAID team was dispatched to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in late August 2016, following flooding that claimed 13 lives and affected over 60,000 homes. The city was subjected to rainfall of up to 2-3 inches per hour for 3 days straight, totalling three times more water than was dumped on New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Earthquake Relief in Italy

A 6.2 magnitude earthquake shattered the central Italian town of Amatrice on August 24, 2016, leaving 290 people dead and hundreds of buildings destroyed or in danger of collapse. A 20-person team from IsraAID arrived in Amatrice within 24 hours of the quake, offering temporary housing, food and water aid, as well as grief counseling for families of victims.

Hurricane Relief in Haiti

Hurricane Matthew tore through Haiti during the first week of October 2016, killing over 1,000 residents and destroying over 90% of the island's southern portion. The hurricane's 145-mph winds and torrential rains dealt significant damage to the island's infrastructure and left 350,000 Haitians in need of assistance. IsraAID has had a team of full-time workers in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake that caused $13.2 billion in damage and devastated the island, and these individuals sprang into action distributing food and water following hurricane Matthew. The IsraAID team set up an aid clinic in Haiti's capital Port-Au-Prince, which was fully stocked with equipment and supplies thanks to a recent shipment from the MASHAV international development agency. Although Israel does not have an embassy in Haiti, IsraAID's leaders coordinated with the Haitian government to deliver much needed aid to the people.

Flood Relief in Sri Lanka

In June 2017, Israeli Ambassador to India and Sri Lanka, Daniel Carmon, delivered trucks full of medical supplies, power generators, food, blankets, and other necessities to Sri Lankan authorities in a flood crisis.  Floods and mudslides in underdeveloped regions of the country killed 200 and displaced over 80,000 in just a few days.  Floods and related disasters have become more common during the Sri Lankan monsoon season, due to deforestation for rubber and other products.  

Operation Good Neighbor

For the first time, in July 2017, the Israel Defense Forces provided an inside view into the aid they provide to Syrians who have been affected by their country's civil war.  To read about Operation Good Neighbor, please click here.  

Helping Montenegro Battle Fires

Israel sent two planes with aid teams and equipment to Montenegro in July 2017, to assist local firefighting efforts.  Hundreds of tourists and locals were evacuated from Montenegro and Croatia's Adriatic coast due to heavy fires that burned for days during the second week of July.  Israeli firefighters dropped 78,000 liters of fire retardant during 36 flights over the country, in a mission lasting five days.  

Mudslides in Sierra Leone

After devastating rains and mudslides claimed the lives of over 450 and displaced thousands in Sierra Leone during August 2017, Israel was the first country to send international aid teams.  Within 24 hours of hearing about the tragic situation in the country, Israeli trucks were in the disaster-striken areas distributing 20,000 portions of food and other aid.  

Hurricane Relief in the U.S.

Hurricane Harvey devastated coastal Texas in late August 2017 before going back out to sea and making landfall again as a tropical storm.  The category 5 storm featured winds topping 150 miles per hour, and dumped 50+ inches of rain on affected areas.  Two teams from the IsraAID organization arrived in Texas after the storm died down, offering food and medical supplies as well as counseling and support.  The Israeli Disapora Affairs Ministry pledged $1 million to help rebuild the Jewish community affected by Hurricane Harvey.  During the first week of September 2017 staff from the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. packed several tons of aid into trucks, which were then driven to Texas to help victims of the hurricane.  

Just weeks after Harvey hit Texas, in early September 2017 Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida.  Although the damage from the storm was not nearly as bad as predicted, millions of people were affected and 82 people were killed.  Israeli rescue and aid groups deployed to the Florida Keys and Naples areas, which were most severely hit, and provided medical assistance, fresh water and food, and other aid to victims of the storm.  

Earthquake Relief in Mexico

An IDF rescue team spent Rosh Hashanah 2017 digging victims out from under the rubble of a 6.2 magnitude earthquake that slammed Mexico City in late September.  The earthquake levelled 52 buildings and left thousands homeless in a country that was still feeling the effects of a weaker earthquake two weeks prior.  Seventy Israelis travelled to Mexico, providing equipment and support to the local Mexican rescue crews.  Israeli organization IsraAid also was in Mexico providing assistance.  Almost a week after the quake, an Israeli rescue team helped recover the body of Mexico City Rabbi Haim Ashkenazi.  

Aid to Madagascar

The island of Madagascar experienced the worst outbreak of plague in 50 years during October 2017.  The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinated aid packages to be sent to the island, with medical supplies and food.  

Flood Relief in Southern India

Heavy rains brought flooding that killed over 220 people in South Indian state of Kerala during August 2018. IsraAID's team located in Nepal sent a response team with disaster relief experts and aid to help the victims.  

Rescue Mission Following Dam Collapse in Brazil

On January 25, 2019, a dam collapsed in Brumadinho, Brazil and released an avalanche of iron ore waste from a mine that killed at least 58 people and left as many as 300 unaccounted for. Israel dispatched a team of 130 conscripted and reservist soldiers on a specially chartered El Al flight to South Western Brazil. The delegation is mostly made up of military search-and-rescue specialists and medical officers and also includes members of the Israeli Navy’s Yaltam scuba unit to search flooded areas. Israel sent the only foreign search and rescue delegation to assist the Brazilian military.

Search and Rescue Mission in Florida

Israeli officials and disaster relief specialists flew to Miami in the wake of the collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium building on June 24, 2021, in Surfside, Florida.

Sources: Israeli Defense Forces.
“Israeli Doctors Restore Sight to 90 Kyrgyzstanis in ‘Eye From Zion’ Initiative,” Algemeiner, (August 26, 2015).
John Fisher, Rosa Doherty, “Israeli disaster relief team supporting UK flood victims have ‘become heroes,’” Jewish Chronicle, (January 6, 2016).
Gavin Rabinowitz, “Israeli volunteers are aiding Syrian refugees in Europe,” JTA, (September 22, 2015).
“IsraAID extends assistance to refugees,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (September 20, 2015).
Eitan Goldstein, “Israeli aid group going to Louisiana to assist flood victims,” YNet News, (August 24, 2016).
“Israeli aid group building shelters for Italy quake victims,” Times of Israel, (August 29, 2016).
Abigail Leichman, “Israelis help Haitians cope after devastating hurricane,” Israel21C, (October 9, 2016).
Israel Rushes Aid to Sri Lanka as Floods Displace Tens of Thousands, Algemeiner, (May 30, 2017).
Israel sends aid to help Montenegro battle fires, YNet News, (July 19, 2017).
Israel was first country to get aid to Sierra Leone, Jerusalem Post, (August 17, 2017).
Nicky Blackburn.  Israel sends aid to flood-battered Texas, Israel21c, (August 29, 2017).
Sarah Levi.  In wake of Harvey, Israel pledges $1 million to Houston Jewish community, Jerusalem Post, (September 4, 2017).
Eric Cortellessa.  Israeli embassy in DC ships several tons of aid to Harvey victims, Times of Israel (September 6, 2017).
Israeli Aid Teams Deploy to Florida’s Hardest-Hit Areas in Wake of Hurricane Irma, Algemeiner, (September 14, 2017).
Daniel Eisenbud, Anna Ahronheim.  Zaka Recovers Body of Rabbi From Rubble Left by Mexico City Quake, Jerusalem Post, (September 24, 2017).
Mel Frykberg.  Israel sends emergency aid to plague-hit Madagascar, African Independent Magazine, (November 7, 2017).
Hagay HaCohen, IsraAID Team to Help Victims of South-Indian Floods, Jerusalem Post, (August 21, 2018).
“130-strong Israeli rescue team arrives in Brazil as dam collapse toll hits 58,” Times of Israel, (January 28, 2019).
Abigail Klein Leichman, “Israeli Aid Groups Rush to Florida Building Collapse Site,” Israel21c, (June 27, 2021).