Written by Avi Mayer, the Director of New Media at The Jewish Agency for Israel. Follow him on Twitter @avimayer.
On a chilly day in the middle of February, seven young Syrian men appeared near the border fence separating the Syrian and Israeli sides of the wind-swept Golan Heights. Suffering from gunshot wounds, their bodies riddled with shrapnel, they called out to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers guarding their side of the fence and asked for permission to draw near. When the IDF soldiers saw the Syrians' condition, they immediately permitted them entry, provided them with first aid, and transported them in military ambulances to Ziv Hospital in the northern Israeli town of Safed for further treatment.In spite of the continuing conflict with the Palestinians, Israel has always extended its hand to its neighbors, offering aid and humanitarian assistance to those in need.
"This is not the first time in the hospital's history that we have received wounded individuals from the other side of the border," hospital director Dr. Oscar Embon later said. "It is always a humanitarian activity and we concentrate on the wounded as we would on any other wounded person, focusing solely on the medical issue without going into other matters. We treat every wounded person as he is, and it does not matter where the person comes from."...
The seven Syrian men who staggered toward their country's border with Israel in February knew that their supposed enemy to the southwest would come to their aid when they needed it most. Indeed, Israel's commitment to helping those in need is embedded in the country's national DNA. It has manifested itself throughout Israel's existence and continues to do so in a myriad of ways, both close to home and at the furthest reaches of the globe.
According to the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Defense Ministry department responsible for implementing government policy vis-à-vis the West Bank and Gaza Strip, 210,469 Palestinians in need of medical care were admitted into Israel to receive treatment in Israeli hospitals in 2012. A report by the World Health Organization found that 91.5% of applications to enter Israel for medical purposes were approved in 2012, while a further 7.2% were awaiting approval, pending security clearance.
Israeli nongovernmental organizations play an important role as well. One NGO, Save a Child's Heart (SACH), works with Israeli government agencies and medical centers to provide lifesaving medical treatment to children from 44 developing countries, including some that do not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel. Approximately half of the 3,000 children treated through the program have been Palestinians, 70% of whom have come from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Though Iraq has been at a state of war with Israel since 1948, dozens of Iraqi children have received medical care in the Jewish state. SACH is the largest organization of its kind in the world and all medical staff involved in the program work voluntarily.
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