Israel’s offers of aid for Beirut in keeping with most noble traditions of Jewish ethics

Beirut has been shaken to its foundations in the aftermath of the massive explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital last week. In keeping with core Jewish values of tzedek and chessed, righteousness and kindness, Israel’s leaders promptly offered medical assistance and humanitarian aid to Lebanon.
By now, images of Beirut imploding have reverberated in television news reports, across social media and in online publications. Havoc and chaos have roiled Lebanon to the collapse of its government Monday. More than 200 Lebanese were killed by the explosion, more than 7,000 were injured and approximately 300,000 inhabitants of Beirut are homeless.
To put those numbers into perspective, for a moment, remember that the population of Beirut is estimated to be between 1 million to 2.6 million people. The population of the City of Houston is generally estimated at 2.6 million individuals and the Greater Houston area is cited as being 6.9 million. Imagine what the City of Houston would be like if, due to a cataclysmic event like Beirut’s explosion, some 300,000 Houstonians were adrift throughout the city, thousands were injured and even more were starving. Teeming numbers of the elderly and children coping with such a disaster are heartbreaking.
Houstonians can relate to this cataclysmic event. In 2017, the city was washed asunder by Hurricane Harvey. Just as citizens of Beirut are now coping with disaster, hundreds of thousands of Houstonians coped with massive destruction, sickness and hunger inflicted by a tropical storm of Biblical proportions.
In keeping with our traditions, Israel’s leaders promptly offered aid to Lebanon.
“We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer aid at this difficult time,” Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin tweeted after the explosion. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel is ready to provide medical and humanitarian aid to Lebanon. Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi sent word through diplomatic channels that Israel is eager to aid the Lebanese people in the wake of the tragedy.
The Times of Israel reported earlier this week that Lebanon has not officially responded to Israel’s offers of aid. The newspaper also said that Lebanon is “expected to refuse help due to long-standing enmity between the countries, which are officially at war and especially due to the Shiite terror group Hezbollah’s hold over state decision-making.”
A number of Israel’s most highly skilled disaster-response doctors are nonetheless making plans to treat Lebanese wounded in last week’s blast. The Times of Israel also reported that plans are being made to treat the injured in a third country, perhaps Cyprus, in an “ad hoc hospital.”
Lebanon has been ravaged by mounting unemployment and its mounting financial crisis has racked the financial resources of its population.
French President Emmanuel Macron relayed Israel’s offer of assistance when he made an unexpected visit to Beirut last week to survey the devastation.
Israel’s offers to aid the Lebanese people is not without controversy. Knesset Member Betzalel Smotrich (Yamina Party) said humanitarian aid to Lebanon is appropriate if “we get points in the international arena and it is in our interest to help this is fine. However, we have no moral obligation to offer assistance to an inveterate enemy country, since ‘He who has mercy on the cruel will eventually be cruel to the merciful.’”
However, Rabbi Ammon Bazaq of the Har Etzion yeshiva pointed out that withholding aid from Lebanon “is not the way of the Torah.” He said, “Firstly, it should be stressed that the residents of Lebanon are not necessarily cruel and evil and it is a moral obligation to distinguish between an enemy country and innocent citizens. (This includes) women and children, especially in a country like Lebanon in which the Hezbollah rules absolutely and undemocratically over numerous citizens who do not identify with its outlook.”
Rabbi Bazaq’s views are in keeping with Proverbs 24:17, which states, “Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.”
Not all Lebanese thirst for Israel’s ruin. And, is it not possible, as Beirut’s injured and homeless cope with the ravages of disaster, that a hardened heart may be softened by genuine acts of kindness rendered by Israeli doctors and humanitarian aid workers? Like a great wave that begins with a small ripple, individual acts of decency may take on a mighty force.
Last week, Tel Aviv’s municipal building was lit up in the colors of the Lebanese national flag to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Beirut.
“Humanity comes before any conflict and our hearts are with the Lebanese people following the terrible disaster that struck them,” tweeted Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.
May Israel’s offers of aid to the stricken Lebanese people be a beacon of hope to that conflict and bloodshed may give way to human decency and shalom —qualities that are essential for mankind to endure.
This editorial was published in the Aug.13 issue of the Jewish Herald Voice and is reprinted with permission.

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