In a world of rather frequent natural disasters, the earthquake in Haiti and its eerie, hellish aftermath retains the ability to shock, reminding us of the fragility of life and even civilization itself. And yet, if we will call earthquakes “acts of God,” there is some solace in seeing how so many of us have responded in a way that ironically can only be called the image of God and all that’s holy.
These tragedies are universal and tap our common humanity, and yet there is no getting around the fact that Jews and Jewish organizations, and Israelis and Israeli organizations, and the often unfairly criticized Israeli army, have responded in a uniquely generous and selfless way arising from a tender braiding of our particularism and universalism.
Our national and local Jewish organizations responded with immediacy and professionalism, and our community has opened its heart, and purse strings, with compassion and generosity.
It’s impossible to see Israel be in the frontline of this global effort and not feel a certain poignant twinge at how rare it is, in an era when the United Nations is so shameless in its abuse of the Jewish state, that Israel is welcomed into any global effort.
It was only a few months ago, in September, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad brought his full arsenal of nuclear threats, anti-Semitism and racism to the General Assembly. Only two countries in the Western Hemisphere walked out in protest, the United States and Costa Rica, despite considerable Israeli diplomacy to enlarge that list. Haiti wouldn’t walk out. Other countries around the world that Israel helped through tsunami and famine in past years also ignored Israel’s request. Many of these same countries, and many in the current force for good and sympathy, never extended such caring to Israel in her time of trial, and famously called Israel’s long delayed defense of Sderot “disproportionate.”
And yet, there is no other word but disproportionate to describe Israel’s and the Jewish place in the Haitian rescue, certainly disproportionate to any other nation, or community, of similar size. It is to Israel’s eternal nobility that she has responded to her demonization and to this crisis with a grace that is drawn from all that is godly in our tradition. We say this not so much in self-congratulation but in sadness. Perhaps when this rescue ends, somebody, somewhere, will remember.