The IDF (Zahal) has a reputation for sending out its soldiers not just to fight, but also to help others in need. Here are 4 touching stories that illustrate why it’s a source of pride to be part of the Israeli army.
- Home Front Command soldiers rescue Shiran Franco
In 1999, an earthquake struck northwestern Turkey. An Israeli delegation, comprised of IDF (Zahal) Home Front Command soldiers, was deployed to assist the rescue, eventually growing to two more delegations and a field hospital. Many civilians were trapped under the rubble, including Israelis. Among those trapped was the Franco family.
Turkey 1999 rescue of Shiran Franco. Credit: Getty Images
Within 36 hours, the IDF (Zahal) rescue team managed to release Iris Franco, the mother of the family. However, the rest of the family was still trapped. The team kept digging for 96 hours until they found the nine-year-old daughter, Shiran Franco, dehydrated and buried beneath the ruins. The rest of the family did not survive.
In total, the IDF (Zahal) delegation rescued 12 survivors and recovered 140 bodies. The IDF (Zahal) field hospital treated 1,200 people, performed 40 surgeries and delivered 15 babies.
- Operation Solomon
On January 5, 1985, Operation Moses was terminated due to a leak in the press about the secret arrival of the Ethiopian Jews through Sudan to Israel. Almost 15,000 Jews were left in Ethiopia and Sudan, and many family members of groups that had already arrived in Israel were left behind.
An agreement was reached only several days before rebels took over Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. With many lives in danger, the IDF (Zahal) went on a flash aerial operation in order to evacuate the Ethiopian Jews. Within 34 hours, 30 airliners and a cargo aircraft flew from Israel to Addis Ababa and transferred 14,400 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. The Shin Bet, along with hundreds of soldiers from the “Shaldag” unit, participated in the operation. A world record was set in the operation after an El-Al Boeing 747 airline flew 1,084 passengers in one flight. Moreover, a baby was delivered during the flight, who increased the number of passengers by one.
669 Rescue Unit. Credit: Israeli Air Force Bitayon
- The 669 Unit’s Historical Operations
Unit 699, the IDF (Zahal)’s aerial search and rescue unit, helps all those who are in need — whether on land or sea. The unit evacuates the injured to hospitals and also performs air and land scans for missing persons. Only two months ago, a teenager from the Galilee fell into a crevice during a school trip and the unit was sent to rescue him. A helicopter arrived, ropes were thrown down, and the boy was put on a stretcher and treated by a military doctor in the helicopter on his way to the hospital.But not all of these operations are that simple. One of the more complicated rescues occured on May 8, 1998, when Unit 669 soldiers had to rescue three construction workers who were trapped atop a 250-meter chimney following an accident. In order to pull off the operation, the unit built a unique cable and anchoring system and hoisted the workers on the chopper one by one.
- The 2010 Haiti Earthquake98 hours after the deadly earthquake in Haiti, the IDF (Zahal) had already built a field hospital at the scene. In addition to assisting rescue efforts, the IDF (Zahal) delegation set up a “war room” which prioritized calls for help. Thus, a man who had been trapped under rubble for 125 hours got in touch with IDF (Zahal) soldiers through text messaging, and was subsequently rescued in eight hours.
In the two weeks in which it was operating, the field hospital treated a total of over 1,000 injured people, performed 314 surgeries and delivered 16 babies. When the crew left, the soldiers left the equipment that they brought with them for the use of the survivors.
For more about IDF (Zahal) and aid missions: Watch: US, Israeli Forces Train to Rescue Lives