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Little Israel

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Our cover photograph shows a remarkable, and in some ways misleading, portrait of hope and humanity in the midst of the incredible devastation in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. On Jan. 17, a Haitian woman, eight months pregnant and in labor, arrived with her relatives at the field hospital in Port-au-Prince set up by the Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command. The doctors delivered a healthy baby boy. After the birth, a relative suggested that the new mother — identified by The New York Times as Guerlande Jean Michel, 24 — name her son “Israel,” and she happily agreed. In the photo, Lt. Col. Dr. Avi Abergel, the Israeli delegation’s gynecologist, is shown cradling the newborn.

The story, as told by the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, is misleading only in this sense: The joyous news for Ms. Jean Michele is matched by the tragedy that greeted so many in the island nation, and that will continue to unfold as the death toll mounts and the survivors confront a grim future. The story of the IDF unit stands at the juncture between tragedy and hope, reflecting both the enormous suffering and the remarkable global commitment to relief and rescue.

Jewish newspapers are always tempted to treat every story as if it is about “us,” and in the case of the Israeli medical team and the speedy response of the Jewish philanthropic world, we won’t resist the temptation. The reports about the IDF’s life-saving efforts provide a welcome counterpoint to the negative treatment of Israel in the media. The philanthropic outpouring shows our community at its very best.

But the Haiti story is much bigger than “us.” So close to America, and so often the victim of its political machinations, Haiti now draws on our conscience and our compassion in ways that bring all of us together, Jew and gentile, black and white, liberal and conservative. Just as horrors like these test one’s faith, the response to them can restore that very same faith. Let’s hope little Israel grows up in a world where our faith leads us always to understanding and compassion, and dissolves the passions that divide us from one another.

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