by: Kathy DeGagne, BFP Staff Writer
When the earth shakes anywhere on the globe, Israel is one of the first countries to spring into action and lend aid. Maybe it’s because Israel herself sits atop a massive fault line and understands all too well the destruction caused by a major earthquake. Or it could be that Israel’s swift response arises from the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), one of the defining qualities of the Jewish state and one that motivates her to immediate action when other countries are in crisis.
The Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) Search and Rescue (SAR) units, as well as Israel’s many civilian SAR teams, are primed and ready to respond immediately to any type of disaster, anywhere in the world.
Military Search and Rescue Units
The SAR unit was first established in 1984 and called into action for the Armenian earthquake (1988), the bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina (1994) and earthquakes in Turkey, India, Haiti, and Mexico. A fourth SAR battalion was added to the original three battalions in 2012, when the IDF recognized the need for more highly trained search and rescue technicians.
The SAR brigade comprises male and female combat soldiers who also serve as search and rescue personnel. They focus on defending the country from threats posed by enemies and terrorists, as well as on rescuing people in trouble in Israel and abroad.
The SAR team operates state-of-the-art search and rescue equipment, treats people injured in warfare and natural disasters and decontaminates areas affected by chemical agents. The brigade served in Operation Protective Edge in 2014, when the soldiers had to cross into Gaza armed with an M-16 assault rifle and up to 35 kg. (77 lbs.) of rescue equipment. They are trained to rescue trapped civilians and soldiers from collapsed buildings and, at the same time, face an enemy that can be armed with conventional, biological or chemical weapons.
The IDF Unit 669 is a completely separate SAR unit of the Israeli Air Force and is reserved for combat rescue, the evacuation of soldiers and civilians in wartime scenarios and airborne rescue operations. Unit 669 is on round-the-clock alert and was recently called into action to do an air search for survivors when ten students were killed by flash floods in southern Israel. The unit has underwater, rappelling, combat, medical and air expertise.
SOURCE: Bridges for Peace