Photo Credit: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO
IDF Home Front Command delegation upon their return from a rescue mission in Mexico following the Sept 2017 earthquake.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Thursday (Sept. 28) to welcome home from Mexico the IDF search and rescue delegation returning from its mission abroad. Also attending the ceremony were IDF Deputy Chief-of-Staff Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Israeli Ambassador to Mexico Pablo Macedo Riba and GOC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Tamir Yadai.

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The Prime Minister had instructed that the State of Israel dispatch, on the very eve of the Rosh Hashana holiday, an aid mission composed of approximately 70 soldiers and officers from Home Front Command and the Air Force.

The Israeli mission – led by Col. (res.) David Mizrachi – was the largest, arrived first and left last.

It included expert engineers who gave assistance in areas affected by the earthquake. The search and rescue personnel focused their efforts to rescuing victims among the ruins.

Following is the full text of the prime minister’s remarks to the returning delegation:

“We are all proud of you. We all salute you!

I just told the Deputy Chief-of-Staff that you are the long arm of Israel, the long humanitarian arm that reaches around the world, across thousands of kilometers, and you show the true face of the State of Israel.

We know that when nature is cruel, the time has come for humanitarian action. When there are natural disasters, nations, at least the enlightened nations, work together. In this respect, the State of Israel and the IDF have met with impressive success time and again.

You spent last week, including Rosh Hashana, in Mexico City, far away from your families, from our country. The earth shook there and you extended a steady and sure hand to the citizens of Mexico. I must tell you that reports of what you did for them, first of all, have reverberated and we saw the responses of people in Mexico and beyond.

We see the difference between Israel, an enlightened democracy, a state with values and morality that seeks life and is full of life – and the vast gulf between us and those fanatical regimes the goal of which is to sow ruin and destruction everywhere. We aspire to be a light unto the nations, exactly this, and they bring darkness to humanity. We champion progress and social welfare – and they disseminate violence and death.

On my visit to Mexico, an historic visit, as part of my visit to Latin America, I spoke with Mexican President Pena Nieto about the assistance that Israel sent in 1985, in wake of the previous earthquake. He recalled this with great appreciation and I told him that since then we have developed different capabilities, for the various needs that we have, and he listened with great interest. The visit – which was very successful – was over and I continued on to the UN and from there I was about to board the plane back to Israel, and on the ramp up to the plane I received a telephone call from the Mexican Foreign Minister and he told me that another earthquake had struck and that they were requesting that we send the same mission, the same ability and the same people to Mexico as quickly as possible. I told him that they were already on the way. You were already en route, you had already organized. You were the first to arrive and the last to leave and this shows the unique nature of the State of Israel. We are not a major power but we are a rising global power including in the ability to extend assistance to various countries.

True friendship is measured in moments of crisis and this is exactly what we did when this disaster, this natural disaster, struck Mexico. And indeed, we have a friendship in times of routine but we also have a friendship in time of emergency and it is perhaps the most important. Who expressed this and gave it content? The soldiers and officers, the members of the mission. We are pleased to welcome you back home, in Israel. Very soon you will return to your important work in the IDF. I know and you know that if you are again called on a humanitarian mission around the world – you will not hesitate. And we, as part of our humane diplomatic policy, we will also not hesitate. We rely on you and I think that today the entire world is learning to rely on you.

On behalf of all citizens of Israel, thank you very much from the bottom of our hearts. Now, to your families. Be with them, spend Yom Kippur with them, and gather your strength for the future. A happy New Year to all of you. May you be written and inscribed for good. Thank you on behalf of all Israelis. Thank you very much!”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.