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What Does The Earthquake in Nepal Have To Do With The Jews?

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With a death toll expected to reach over 10,000, the April 25th earthquake in Nepal is the top international news story this week. The distance between Nepal and Israel is roughly 3000 miles, so it’s a reasonable question to ask, “What does the earthquake in Nepal have to do with the Jews?”
 
After completing their army service, hundreds of young Israelis flock to Nepal to vacation in an exotic locale. Rabbi Chezki Lifshitz, who runs the Chabad House in Kathmandu, Nepal along with his wife Chani, estimated that there were 1,500 Israelis in Nepal at the time the earthquake hit. Ironically, the earthquake hit on a Shabbat morning, when the Jews in the Chabad House in Kathmandu were at prayer. Hundreds of Israelis, those who could get there, congregated in the courtyard of the Chabad House, huddled together for safety.
 
Israel’s official response was swift. A 260-member disaster team, including 122 Israeli army doctors, nurses and paramedics arrived in Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries, to set up a full field hospital, including operating rooms, X-ray facilities and pediatric care, in order to tend to the wounded. The other half of the team, the non-medical personnel, are engaging in search-and-rescue operations. Along with the team, Israel also sent 95 tons of humanitarian and medical supplies.
 
In addition to the formal government response, three private emergency response organizations that operate in Israel – United Hatzalah, Zaka and First Israel – sent a delegation to Nepal to provide search-and-rescue assistance in collapsed buildings and to offer basic medical care in small villages where health clinics are either destroyed or over capacity. Magen David Adom sent 15 paramedics from Israel and IsraAID sent an emergency relief team to distribute emergency supplies, food, water, social services and medical care to the wounded. IsraAID also plans to help Nepal strategize on how to rebuild the country’s agriculture, fishery and water industries. In addition, there are plans to assist the mental health workers in Nepal to treat the traumatized victims.
 
The 49-day period in the Jewish calendar between Passover and Shavuot is known as sefira. Each day, we count one day closer to the anniversary of the giving of the Torah. The seven week period also corresponds to seven basic human emotions.  Each week is a chance to focus on and to improve on one of these seven emotions. Interestingly, the day that Israel started sending aid to Nepal is known in the sefira counting as chesed she’b’netzach.
 
Chesed is, of course, lovingkindness. And netzach is the concept of eternity, endurance or victory.
 
May the chesed that the Israeli emergency response teams are delivering to the trapped, wounded and frightened victims in Nepal be a merit for the eternity of the Jewish people.
 

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