India is, for many young Israelis, the dream vacation that awaits them after the army. They finish three years of national service, perhaps work for a few months and then travel. India is about the most opposite you can get from the army. Where the army is all about routing and discipline, India is about freedom. Sleep when you want, go where you want, eat what you want. Freedom.
What that means, sometimes, is Israelis getting into trouble...and sometimes, being involved in national or natural disasters beyond their planning and imagination. Thus it was with the tsunami years ago; thus it is with the massive flooding now taking place in India and its neighboring countries. The Foreign Ministry of Israel is among the most dedicated in the world to following after our citizens. Special units are ready for anything, anywhere.
When the extent of the flooding became apparent, the Foreign Ministry began plans to evacuate some 600 trapped Israelis. Among a rising death toll, massive damage and more, planes were sent. When the planes arrived, an amazing thing happened. Not all Israelis agreed to come home. In fact, 30% decided to stay and help. "Some helped lift boulders and evacuate the rubble from the streets. Israelis make up half of all the foreign volunteers, which is truly impressive," says Irit Shneor.
But the true message that came from the Israelis who chose to stay was an even more basic one, "This is how we were raised," says Matan Golan. Yes, this is how they were raised and this is how, yet again, they make us proud.