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Devastation & Hope in the Philippines

Devastation & Hope in the Philippines

An Israeli soldier’s first person account.


Below is a first-person account of one of the soldiers taking part in the IDF’s rescue delegation to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

For live updates on the rescue mission click here

Our journey to the Philippines began as we found ourselves in the Ben Gurion International Airport, awaiting for instructions and prepared to board a plane with more than 100 tons of equipment. We were a diverse group – 148 officers and soldiers, doctors, nurses, lab technicians, psychiatrists, social psychologists, search and rescue workers, etc.

IDF delegation for Philippines at Ben Gurion AirportIDF delegation for the Philippines at Ben Gurion Airport


After 12 long hours crossing the universe, we arrived in Cebu. As we stepped off the plane, we quickly came to understand one of the serious challenges we would be facing in the Philippines – unprecedented heat. We landed in an airstrip and were surrounded by hundreds of boxes of foreign aid. We were immediately welcomed by dozens of the local residents, excited to greet us in our first moments in the Philippines. We boarded buses for a 4-hour drive north to Bogo City, a city deeply impacted by Typhoon Haiyan.

Flags standing side by sideFlags standing side by side

Despite our exhaustion, we couldn’t help but be enthralled by the beauty of the countryside. We reached Bogo City on Thursday night and spent our first night in the local sports complex as we experienced our first rain in the Philippines through the open sky under which we slept (the roof of the complex was destroyed in the typhoon). There was a clear feeling of excitement – the desire to get to work as soon as possible. Members of the delegation spent the evening playing guitars and singing, already building strong bonds.

Our first full day started early and we immediately began to unload all of the medical supplies that had arrived. The amount was staggering – wheelchairs, ultrasounds, diapers, medication and even refrigerators. The atmosphere continued to grow with pride and excitement, especially when the flags were raised. The pediatrics section was decorated with toys and, almost instantly, local residents began standing in line waiting for medical assistance.

Soldier decorating pediatrics section of field hospitalSoldier decorating pediatrics section of field hospital

The day was filled with major milestones – admitting the first patient, as well as the birth of the first baby, aptly named “Israel.” Lt. Col. Dr. Ofer Merin, the medical manager of the hospital, kept mentioning the importance of what we were doing, stating “we are here to answer the call for help.” I had the privilege of being in the delivery room minutes after Israel was born and what was felt in that room was truly the essence of hope – the feeling that after such a horrific experience, life, and especially new life, continues.

IDF in the philippinesIDF doctors with newborn baby “Israel”

On the second morning, we were greeted by roughly 150 people lining up outside the hospital, eager to catch a space in line. The second day was also the first full day in which the x-ray station, laboratory station and optometry station were used. Certain moments felt frenzied – a constant buzz that was felt every time we saw patients in line. Procedures continued – the first C-Section occurred, as did the delivery of a woman in the backseat of her car.

-4 7.25.31 PM

It was in moments like these in which the IDF delegation’s true nature was shown – its commitment to helping, without any desire or need for a thank you. The overall feeling here is one of persistence and commitment to a cause – to do whatever is needed to help the people in need.

IDF pediatric specialist, Col. Dr. Albukirk, on the jobIDF pediatric specialist, Col. Dr. Albukirk, on the job

Reprinted with permission from the IDF Blog article "A Soldier's First-Person account of Devastation & Hope in the Philippines"

November 18, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 40

(39) SH, May 21, 2014 11:38 PM


It's only now i read this, but i also say thanks to your nation for reaching out to ours then.

(38) Julie Clark, November 24, 2013 12:11 AM

The Jewish population is so vast

Back in 1969 my parents and I were in Israel ... we stayed at a kibbuts for a night and a man asked a question ... Dad looked at the man and said 'impossible' ... after the discussion ... Dad went to this lady (who was from South Africa) and asked if she had a man on the tour by the name of Hymie Miller on the tour ... she said NO BUT WE HAVE JOE MILLER ... it was Dad's cousin's son who Dad had not seen since migrating to Australia in 1930's ...he was there with his wife and family ... Dad, Mum and I had a very enjoyable time with them ... as the saying goes ... ONLY IN ISRAEL

(37) Naomi, November 22, 2013 9:23 PM


What an amazing Kiddush HaShem (sanctification of G-d's name). Beautiful!

(36) Sam NY, November 22, 2013 8:05 AM

Chosen People of God

Shalom! We deeply appreciate your unselfish, heartfelt commitment to those in need, "love thy neighbors" . You were first on the scene. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your God, my God will always protect! you from your enemies, "Ishmael" descendants. I have always supported missionaries to Israel in the past financially and persevering intercessions till today. "Be strong and courageous", "the battle is not yours, it's Mine", God gave you your land, always remind PM Bibi and your leaders. He will be with you till the end! we love you, we stand with you " Be strong and courageous always!" God bless you!

(35) Joan Katzman, November 22, 2013 2:22 AM

Israel - a Light to the Nations

There are no words that can express the pride that fills my heart for our beloved Israel, a nation like no other. They are truly a light to the nations. May Hashem always bless and protect our beloved Land and our People who dwell there.

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