The Historical Roots of Israel’s Humanitarian Aid to Ukraine

April 6, 2022 | Tammy Reznik
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While the Jewish state is not alone in sending assistance to beleaguered Ukraine, it is able to bring to bear its unique expertise when it comes to offering certain kinds of relief. Tammy Reznik explains:

Jerusalem has provided aid with a focus on its well-developed capacity to provide medical assistance, despite not sharing any borders with Ukraine. Israel acted quickly after the crisis hit, sending a professional mental-health delegation from the World Zionist Organization to Ukraine within the first week of the invasion, as well as a large shipment of medical supplies, equipment, and clothing to be shared [by] all citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish. This effort has been managed by multiple agencies, including the Foreign Ministry, Health Ministry, and leading Israeli hospitals.

Israel’s humanitarian effort culminated with an announcement on March 14 of a government-approved operation, Kokhav Meir, [literally “shining star”]—named after Israel’s Ukraine-born prime minister Golda Meir. This operation will see the setting up of a field hospital on the ground in Ukraine, with at least 100 staff members. . . . Israel has long been renowned for its capacity to set up these field hospitals in emergency zones, but this case is significant for a number of reasons.

The field hospital, of course, is but one of several initiatives, which include inter alia the purchase and provision of generators for the hospital in Lviv. Reznick also explains the special significance of the operation’s name:

Israel by way of tragic circumstance has developed a leading role in response to mass casualties. As such, Israel has established a set of extremely effective procedures for rapid and effective response in case of emergency, with a recognition of the mental-health impacts, as a key aspect of its international response.

Israel’s humanitarian efforts, began in 1958, with the establishment of MASHAV, a Hebrew acronym for the Agency for International Development Cooperation, following the first visit of the then-Foreign Minister Golda Meir to Africa. . . . Meir, who went on to become Israel’s first and only female prime minister, played a significant role in Israel’s crisis response, and MASHAV is one of her strongest legacies. Interestingly, Meir is a popular figure in Ukraine, thanks to her own Ukrainian heritage (she was born and spent most of her childhood in Kyiv).

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