Israeli news agencies are dedicating considerable coverage to the recent earthquake in Italy in which around 280 people were killed and many more left homeless or injured.
Israelis are also interested in the natural disaster because one of their own, a 23 year old medical student Hussein Hamada from the northern Israeli town of Kabul was killed when his dormitory collapsed during the earthquake.
Another reason for interest is that Israel has offered to send search and rescue teams to Italy to help with whatever work needs to be done. Italy has accepted Israeli help which, if it is not already on the ground, will be dispatched shortly.
In trying to determine exactly who from Israel will go to Italy to support recovery and disaster assistance efforts it was interesting to note that Israel actually has two, highly trained search and rescue agencies. The first, is linked to the military and serves under the "home guard" command. The website linked to above is simple, but clicking around on the links brings up some interesting information about the capabilities of this unit and the types of work they have done to date.
The second agency is actually civilian and volunteer search and rescue team that has operated not only domestically in Israel, but around the world, one would imagine in conjunction with or as a supplement to the military team. From the short description of this group provided and the accolades they have received, this agency, known as F.I.R.S.T. appears to be a uniquely qualified highly trained organization. Perhaps most interesting about F.I.R.S.T. is that it is part of a larger network called IsraAID, an Israeli humanitarian aid group that seems, for a country with modest resources, to do important work is some far-flung locations.
In the case of both the military and civilian search and rescue teams from Israel, both were born out of conflict and a need for the ability to quickly extract people from buildings destroyed in bomb blasts and they like. They also both stand out as having assisted in disasters all over the world and seem to show little regard for politics when offering their assistance. For example, this older article mentions how Israeli help was turned down by Iran after the devastating earthquake in the city of Bam.
It's unclear whether Israeli civilians or only military will be participating in the Israeli assistance to Italy. In either case, it is noteworthy that a small country with relatively limited resources somehow manages to offer its assistance to other, even wealthier countries and to note how an expertise developed from conflict pays dividends in the humanitarian and diplomatic realms.
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