Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The little nation that could...

Some people are remarking on the speed and efficiency with which the Israel Defense Forces have come, from thousand of miles away, to set up a fully-equipped field hospital in Haiti. Some would see this as a particular defense of the values inherent in Jewish nationhood. I would add that it should probably teach us something of the value of any coherent national identity, of a society where there is enough of a sense of the common good and purpose - not so much a shared ideology but a commitment to a shared reality, a shared presence/existence on a common national scene - to allow people to work together in implicit trust, with much independent-minded problem solving, and hence without need of the kind of bureaucratic overload and excessive deference to more cautious procedural protocols that may be hampering other, larger nations, or NGOs.

See also the report from Friends of the IDF
As part of the IDF delegation to Haiti , Communications Corps personnel have established a fully functioning communications center in the field hospital- to be used by the IDF delegation, reporters in the area, and even the local population. Cpt. (res.) Barak Tzarom is the commander of the communications center in the field.

The communications staff was the first to arrive in Haiti , as an exploratory force. The force traversed the area and checked topographical conditions for the establishment of a communications center. Satellites and antennas were placed on the roofs of local buildings that had survived the earthquake. The staff worked with such skill and proficiency that in just three and a half hours, the communications center was complete and ready.

The remainder of the delegation arrived with the medical staff and Home Front Command personnel, who settled next to the communications center. Telephone lines were ready for use even before the first treatment was administered in the field hospital.

There is no doubt as to the importance of the communications center: it constitutes the main communication link between the IDF forces in Haiti and IDF commanders in Israel . The demand for the communication center’s services continues to be very high, for both operational and media-sharing needs.

Civilians are also using the communication tools of the center, which is currently the only supplier of internet in the area. Tzarom says: “All media from the writers and reporters in the fields, all information, is being transferred using our command center. Because the communications tools here are not sufficiently prepared to transfer information from the field we are assisting them by enabling them to do all of that from Haiti , in the best conditions possible.”

Cpt. Tzarom says that despite the courageous work, one cannot ignore the difficult images that characterize the disaster zone. “The mission always stands at the forefront, but the reality on the field is too difficult for one to stay untouched. You meet local people who suddenly became people without anything, you see them waiting on the sides of the roads that we drive on. It is impossible to describe the suffering, and the new reality that they have become a part of,” he says. “That being said, the local people are so happy to receive the assistance we are offering. In broken language they thank us for our contribution and our help. They smile at us and make peace signs at us, perhaps signing to us what it would be hard for them to say because of our different languages. These are the moments that make you understand the importance of our mission here,” he adds with emotion.

The Communications Corps staff promises to be “the first to arrive and the last to leave.” Hand in hand with Home Front Command and Medical Corps personnel, they will continue to supply communications from outside in and vice versa.
See also:
In the middle of the destruction, there was happiness. On the night of January 17th, a female resident of Port-au-Prince gave birth to a healthy baby boy at the IDF field hospital, thanks to the medical services of the IDF delegation in Haiti . A family member present at the birth suggested that the mother name her child in honor of the country that helped her. The mother was happy to oblige, and the baby boy was named “ Israel .”

Since the birth of baby Israel , two other babies have been delivered in the IDF field hospital.
If Haiti is to be rebuilt, it needs to attend to such models of nationhood, and not listen to the many who scapegoat that which works.

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