In a cavernous warehouse of an Israeli army base, Israel Defense Force soldiers busily assemble packets of medical supplies. Surgical tape. Tubes for intravenous drips.
Soon, the packets -- boxes and boxes of them -- will be shipped off to earthquake-ravaged Mexico, where the IDF's humanitarian mission aircraft arrived in Mexico on the September 21 – on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year — after an 18-hour flight from Israel in response to a series of deadly earthquakes. The IDF delegation of approximately 70 men and women includes 25 engineers who are evaluating the damage and providing assessments and assistance in the disaster zone.
That the IDF is providing humanitarian assistance in a natural-disaster zone beyond Israel's borders is hardly unusual – in 2013, the country dispatched aid workers to the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, in 2010, to quake-devastated Haiti, and in 2015 to Nepal earthquake rescue effort among other missions over the years.
The IDF National Search and Rescue Unit, under the Home Front Command, is a highly skilled force trained to execute special search and rescue missions, The unit is comprised primarily of reservists who are always on call, with prepared kits to enable immediate departure.
Noteworthy here are the soldiers working so hard in that warehouse lined with ceiling-high shelves of emergency supplies. They are members of the JNF-supported "Special in Uniform" program, which integrates young people with disabilities into the IDF.
“Every morning our soldiers arriving to the base working in a warehouse to help to refresh and prepare the emergency kits, it’s a routine with daily repetition of jobs in the same/similar sequence each day”. said Tiran Attia, Director of the program, but knowing that they are saving lives they proudly say “'look at me, I'm helping the world.”
Typically, Israeli teens with disabilities receive an automatic deferment at the same time that their able-bodied peers receive draft notices. JNF’s Special in Uniform works to restore the sense of validation that can be lost with an automatic deferment.