The Israeli aid mission to Haiti landed at the Ben Gurion Airport Thursday and was received at a state reception ceremony by IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said, "You showed the world what the true IDF is all about."
"Whoever has come to know the IDF over the years is certainly not surprised," Netanyahu said and added, "Our greatest test as a people and a military is the ability to make quick rescue operations while making decisions on the move. You have proved these abilities and have done much more – you lifted men's spirits, the IDF's reputation and Israel.
Israeli delegation returns to Israel (Photo: Yaron Brener)
"These days there are those who seek to harm and undermine us – but you showed the IDF's true nature. I will tell you what the real IDF is because yesterday I returned from a terrible place where a terrible atrocity took place. Not a natural disaster but one made by man, and there was no one to come and rescue our people on time."
Netanyahu further stated, "I salute you on behalf of the State of Israel and all of honest, sincere humanity."
Ehud Barak with Wadley Elysee to undergo surgery in Israel (Photo: Ariel Hermoni)
Chief of Staff Ashkenazi made a reference to the Goldstone Report and said, "Recently, there have been those who have tried to tarnish our soldiers. In your actions, you have proved the opposite."
He offered compliments to the delegation's members and said, "In this mission, your ability to save lives crossed new boundaries."
He noted that during his visit to Europe any conversation with his colleagues began with appreciation to the IDF and noted, "I was proud to be your commander."
Defense Minister Barak said, "Our hearts warmed at the sight of you."
317 life-saving surgeries
Head of the Israeli mission Brigadier-General Shalom Ben Aryeh said that the team treated 1,111 patients, performed 317 life-saving surgeries and delivered 16 babies. "Each of them would have died if had not been treated," he said.
He further related the dire conditions in Haiti and noted, "The presidential palace, government offices, the UN building – all was destroyed. There was no guiding hand."
Ben Aryeh also thanked the mission members by saying "I have seen the sense of mission, camaraderie, and the weight of responsibility for each and every person in the eyes of the commanders, doctors and nurses."
The delegation members landed in Israel after departing for Haiti two weeks ago following the devastating earthquake which cost the lives of some 200,000 people.