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LOS ANGELES, CA – The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria on February 6 killing tens of thousands and injuring thousands more is yet another global wake-up call that anyone, anywhere is but a mere moment away from Mother Nature’s wrath. For America and Israel, the offering of help to the afflicted is in their DNA. What is it about these two nations that finds them routinely being the first to rush in aid and assistance to affected regions?
The devastating earthquake in southern Turkey that has killed tens of thousands of people — with a rapidly rising death toll as operations to clear the rubble continue and winter temperatures drop — a stark reminder of how external events that cannot be predicted can impact domestic politics and foreign policy.
Governments have no choice in the unfolding of natural disasters but do have the ability to affect and save lives in the immediate aftermath. Ankara’s response to this earthquake will have direct consequences on Turkey’s upcoming May election, on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political future, and on voting patterns that will last well beyond this election for Turkish Kurds. Expect as well to see an effect on Turkey’s relationship with European and Middle Eastern states, and on Turkish military operations in Syria. Many states beyond Turkey will be affected, and Israel has seized the opportunity to help out Turkey and not ignore an important wake-up call that the two nations are regional brethren along with both also being the two preeminent regional military powers.
In Israel’s case, aid teams were in the air within 24 hours of the devastating earthquake. As was the case with the rapid setting up of field hospitals in 2010 following Haiti’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake, and in 2022 following the savage attack by Russia into Ukraine, Israel was among the first to show up to lend a helping hand locally when these natural (and human caused) disasters occurred.
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The Israel Defense Forces sent a humanitarian search and rescue aid delegation to Turkey to assist in the disaster relief effort – including helping extricate the thousands who remained trapped beneath rubble. “Olive Branches” is a joint mission together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense to lend their expertise in searching for survivors and treating wounded victims.
America and Israel’s shared values spur each of them to quickly respond when a global crisis happens due to a natural disaster. For Israel it is rooted in the Jewish concept of being responsible for providing Tikkun Olam (heal the world) derived from one of the noblest precepts found in the Mishnah (in Sanhedrin) as well as other Talmudic-period texts that convey how “Whoever Saves a Life Saves the World”. America is the only country ever founded on Judeo-Christian values, where Judaic values are factored into the DNA of the nation alongside Christian values. The balance of Western democracies are founded strictly on Christian values. As such, America and Israel are the only two countries in the history of civilization who have incorporated Jewish values into their DNA and worldview, which in this case translates into being a resource to all corners of the globe when tragedy strikes.
The moral fiber of these two countries means the world can typically rest assured that Israel and America will reliably, reflexively, and quickly step up and send teams of experts and supplies to an impacted region. In this case it is even more noticeably newsworthy because one of the suffering countries, Syria, is a sworn enemy to Israel, and is heavily influenced by Iran; yet Israel is sending to Syria medical supplies, because that’s the type of values Israel has – to help wherever needed, regardless of geopolitics.
With this recurring humanitarian aid, Israel demonstrates time and again how it is a beacon unto nations racing headfirst into urgent scenarios to save lives. It would be wonderful if a political outcome of this is the beginning of connecting the dots so that one day Israel and its neighbors, Lebanon, and Syria, could openly share lifesaving technology and information, and become countries who are there for each other when tragedies such as this earthquake occur.
In the process of providing humanitarian aid, Israel has gained a reputation as a global leader in deploying search and rescue squads. While these missions will only remain for a short-term duration on the ground, their diplomatic impact on improving ties with the countries affected is an important legacy outcome, and surely a factor in why Israel, a country who’s right to exist is still challenged by some, seeks to extend a helping hand repeatedly to help expand its influence among the community of nations.
Editors Note: David Alpern contributed to this report. Alpern is an active leader in Southern California for more than 20 years on behalf of increasing education budgets, investment in the arts, carbon taxes, and the two-state solution to the Arab Israeli conflict.