Washington may have rebuffed Israeli offers of assistance after Hurricane Katrina, but a team of Israeli rescue personnel managed to deploy in some of the worst-hit areas around New Orleans. The 18-member team – which included physicians, mental health professionals, trauma specialists, logistics experts, and a special unit of Israeli police divers – arrived in St. Bernard Parish and Plaquemines Parish on Sept. 10 and spent a week and a half assisting fire department search-and-rescue squads. The team administered first aid to survivors, rescued abandoned pets, and discovered victims of the storm.
The Israeli team was received with slightly puzzled appreciation in the outlying areas. “The soldiers were shocked seeing us,” said Gal Lusky, a diver who founded Israeli Flying Aid, a non-governmental organization that undertook the mission along with the IsraAID relief group. They asked the Israelis, “How come you came from so far? You have your own troubles.” Rep. Charles Melancon (D-La.) said the Israelis “performed courageously in south Louisiana when we needed them most.”