Israelis go global to save lives
On Jan. 12, Haiti experienced a devastating earthquake, measuring above 7.0 on the Richter scale. Not long after, Israel dispatched 250 Israeli doctors, nurses, and rescue workers, who quickly established a fully-equipped mobile hospital in a soccer field and began saving lives.
StandWithUs, the international, nonprofit Israel education organization where I am an executive assistant, sent photojournalist Joe Shalmoni to Port-au-Prince to help and to record their work. The photos appeared on the BBC, CBS, CNN, and Fox, and in the Washington Post, and were exhibited at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.
The images depict the Israelis struggling against overwhelming circumstances to save lives. As Shalmoni described it, “The city was in ruins, permeated by suffering and death, noxious diesel fumes, guns, and desperate people. The Israeli team brought a ray of hope to a place in terrible pain.”
He documented the high-quality work of one of the hospitals: the intense rescue efforts, the intricate operations, the births of children, the neo-natal clinic, and the imaging tables. He photographed Haitian rescue workers bringing the injured and ill to the Israeli Defense Forces hospital in trucks and wheelbarrows. Shalmoni also photographed the day the Israeli team built a water cistern at Mais Gate and danced and sang with the villagers, creating balloons from rubber gloves and drawing faces on them for children.
Charlotte Korchak, 22, StandWithUs West Coast coordinator, said, “It’s amazing that a country the size of Israel that has been struggling to maintain its existence since its founding 62 years ago manages to nurture heroes who drop everything at a moment’s notice and fly to unknown places under terrible conditions to help people in trauma. Going through the exhibition, I was awed not only by these selfless individuals but by Israel’s technological prowess to produce a mobile hospital that overnight became the premiere facility in Haiti saving lives.”
The photos tell not just of Jewish heroes, but of Haitian ones as well. One Haitian man lost all five family members to the earthquake yet found the strength to join the Israeli medical team to help it save other lives.
Shalmoni said, “This was a profoundly life-changing event for all those involved. What happened in the days of January 2010 will remain etched into all of our minds as a testament to the best humanity has to offer in times of extreme crisis. We were given the privilege of being there. I often think I received more from the Haitian people than I gave.”
Maya Rozov, 22, is a StandWithUs executive assistant and graduate of University of California-Irvine.