Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. —Isaiah 58:10
The Kabbalistic Jewish mystic Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (also called the Ari) emphasized the role of human beings in improving the world. He called this tikkun (fixing), which eventually became known as Tikkun Olam (improving the world). The Ari’s Tikkun Olam was based on an earlier Jewish text which proclaimed that “All that G‑d created, He made to be improved.” (Midrash Rabba Genesis 11:16) It can also be seen as having its roots in the Book of Genesis, when God finished creating the world: “And God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to work it and to keep it.” (Genesis 2:15) This verse has been understood to mean that human beings are the guardians of the world, and should act as partners with God in its physical and spiritual upkeep.
Israeli leaders expounded on this Jewish value. The first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, proclaimed “the State of Israel will be tested not by its wealth, not by its army and not by its technique, but rather in its moral identity and humanitarian values.”
And only a mere 10 years after Israel was established as the modern Jewish State, Israel’s humanitarian efforts were institutionalized by its government vis-a-vis the establishment of MASHAV, an international development organization. Today, MASHAV conducts over 200 training programs annually for professionals from developing countries and has trained over 260,000 people from over 130 countries. The fact that the Israeli government set up an organization with the aim of helping those less fortunate, while its own country was still being developed, shows how integral to Judaism is the tenet of helping others.
The country’s founders envisioned not just a place where Jews could collect and hopefully be free from persecution; they wanted a utopia enriched with the most basic Divine values. As it says, “what God does require of you: only to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Sharing Israeli Expertise to the World
The Israeli government, military, civil society and private citizens are proud and ready to share their knowledge and experience with those who need it. The Israel Defense Forces’ humanitarian missions are often the first to respond at the scene of international disasters, setting up operating rooms and field hospitals, leading on the ground search and rescue operations, and delivering life-saving humanitarian aid, even to countries that are technically at war with Israel, like Syria. Israel, via its army the Israel Defense Forces, spent over 5 years providing medical care for Syrian citizens on Israeli-Syrian border in Operation Good Neighbor, Israel’s largest humanitarian mission. By the end of its operation, when the Syrian government retook control of the border area with Israel, the Israeli military had provided thousands of tons of humanitarian aid as well as crucial medical treatment to thousands of Syrian refugees. The IDF rescue teams have also responded to calls for aid from Mexico, Brazil, Armenia, Turkey, El Salvador, India, Peru, Guatemala, Haiti, Thailand, and other countries.
It’s not only government led initiatives that are making a difference around the world. Israeli non-profit and civilian-led organizations also work to share Israeli expertise and technologies in alleviating global problems. Israeli non-profit organizations are active around the world helping tackle food security, disease, poverty, healthcare, and technical training that contribute to an increased quality of life.