When 22-year-old Emmanuel Bito was pulled barely-alive from the rubble of a three-story building 10
days after an earthquake devastated the island of Haiti in 2010, the first faces he saw were those of the Israeli rescue workers who had flown across the world to help them. A search conducted by the Israeli army’s Home Front Command, headed by Lt. Col. Rami Peletz was directed to the location of Emmanuel by local residents. American and French doctors had been unable to rescue Bito and they called upon the Israeli delegation’s search and rescue teams who
succeeded in rescuing him from a tunnel, 2.5-3-meters long within half an hour. When asked by a journalist how he feels following the event, Lt. Col Peletz quotes a traditional Jewish Talmudic passage, “When you save a life, it’s is as if you saved the entire world.”
Over 100,000 people were killed as a result of the disaster in Haiti and over 1 million people lost their homes. Israel was the first country to provide aid to the disaster struck region.
A CNN reporter toured the Israeli field hospital which was set up in coordination with the Haitian
ministry of defense and she commented that Israel had begun treating hundreds of patients before any
other country had even arrived on the scene.
The Israeli rescue crew had set up the largest technologically sophisticated medical facility in Haiti, including a medical lab, pharmacy and an x-ray center. With over 250 doctors and search and rescue personal they treated more than 1,110 patients, conducted 319 successful surgeries, delivered 16 births including three in Caesarian sections.
In one incident, a resident of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian Capitol, gave birth to a son at the Israeli
field hospital. As a token of appreciation and gratitude, his mother decided to name him “Israel” in
honor of the country that helped her.
Soon after that, Mike, a four-year-old Haitian boy, was brought to the IDF field hospital by his father
because of vomiting and weakness. Mike, his two siblings and his parents had been living on the
street since the earthquake because their house was destroyed. Israeli doctors ran blood tests, and
diagnosed him with acute myelogenous leukemia.
Given the diagnosis, Mike needed chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, a long and complex process.
His condition was urgent and the IDF medical team arranged for him to be sent to America for treatment.
And in another rescue operation, also in Haiti, members of ZAKA, a leading Israeli rescue and
recovery NGO organization pulled eight students alive from a collapsed university building in Port-au-
Prince. The six-man ZAKA delegation (four from Israel and two from Mexico) had arrived in Haiti aboard a Mexican air force Hercules, immediately after completing their work in the recovery and
identification efforts following the Mexico City helicopter crash which had occurred days before the earthquake in Haiti.
On arrival, the ZAKA delegation was dispatched to the collapsed 8-story university building where cries
could be heard from the trapped students.
After 38 hours of work around the clock working with the Mexican military delegation and other
Jewish volunteers from Mexico, the ZAKA volunteers succeeded in rescuing the students alive from the
rubble.
The collapse took place on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, and amid the wreckage and chaos, the
ZAKA delegation took time out to recite Shabbat prayers offering a strange sight of ultra-orthodox
men wrapped in prayer shawls standing amidst the destroyed structures. Local Haitians sat stunned staring at the men as they prayed facing Jerusalem. When the prayers ended, they crowded around the ZAKA delegation and kissed their prayer shawls.