For the last seven years, Syria has been engulfed in a deadly civil war. There are no winners in this ongoing bloodbath. There are, however, tens of thousands of losers: innocent Syrians trapped between two armies battling for power. The last official estimate placed the civilian death count at close to half a million people, including almost 20,000 children.
War is never pretty, and in Syria, there is something even uglier than immense loss of life. The devastating conflict displaced millions and left more than 13.1 million people in need. Thousands of people tried to escape into Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Europe or America; yet more are still trapped in war-torn Syria. Without guaranteed access to water, food, shelter, and medicine, millions are suffering.
Israel has a reputation for offering aid – even to people in countries with whom it has no diplomatic relations (in fact, last month, Israel offered pioneering water technology to the Iranian people). Unknown to most, Israel opened Operation Good Neighbor in June 2016.
For two years, Israel has run an under-the-radar humanitarian operation into Syria. This is in spite of the fact that Israel and Syria are officially at war! Between the Israeli government and international NGOs, thousands of tons of aid have been funnelled into the country,
helping 13.5+ million Syrians in need. Aid from Operation Good Neighbor includes:
Food and water
All these items are essential. Food poverty is rampant; medical care is scarce; and families resort to burning trash for heat. Israel’s work with NGOs across the border means that desperately-needed aid is reaching millions.
That’s not all. Israel is also facilitating two clinics in Syria; they are sending materials and equipment over the border and coordinating building and logistics. This means that the people living near the border – and those who can travel – will have access to first world-standard medical aid. The video below demonstrates the scope of the aid sent over from Israel:
Operation Good Neighbor overlaps into Israeli territory, too. As well as the clinics mentioned above, the army built an emergency care centre in an IDF outpost. Mazor Ladach has 18 doctors and a full support staff and can treat up to 500 people a day. Families receive clean water, meals, and world-class medical care. Israeli communities in the north create care packages containing clothes, toys, and candy for Syrian children. Watch the IDF’s video below to learn more about Mazor Ladach:
Refugees are also picked up on the border fence and bused into Israel. Here, they receive medical care that is unavailable to them at home. In particular, this allows mothers to access long-term care and even hospitalisation for sick children.
Busloads of Syrians arrive at least weekly for medical care. But the most remarkable thing here isn’t Israel’s compassion in caring for sick and needy refugees. It’s that as soon as the Syrians have been through a truncated security procedure, they are offered a full breakfast.
This isn’t just about providing ill people with necessary nutrition. It ensures that the Syrians know that they are welcome, and to show them that Israeli soldiers are not the monsters their government paints them to be. The entire operation demonstrates Israel’s desire to help anyone who needs it. Slowly, Syrians are realising that Israel is not their enemy.
According to the IDF’s English website piece on Operation Good Neighbor:
“The IDF provides aid to Syrians on the other side of the border… we have a moral imperative. We can’t stand by watching a severe humanitarian crisis without helping the innocent people stuck in the middle of the conflict.”
This commitment to helping those in need epitomises Israel’s fierce humanitarian spirit and compassion – that is, the heart of Israel.