Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday welcomed back to Israel the Israel Defense Forces’ “Operation Olive Branches” life-saving mission to Turkey.

“The entire people of Israel followed your rescue operation with great excitement. You went on behalf of the country and you brought great honor to the State of Israel. We saw you in action in the cold, in difficult conditions around the clock in the most sacred work a person can do—saving the lives of others. ‘Whoever saves one soul’—you know the rest. You saved 19 worlds,” said Netanyahu.

He was invoking the Talmudic adage that states that whoever saves one person, it is as if he saved an entire universe.

“Operation Olive Branches” saved 19 people from the rubble left by the massive earthquakes that struck Turkey last week, among them children, as well as Syrian refugees.

The IDF sent 230 medical and emergency response experts to set up a field hospital in Kahramanmaraş, in addition to a 150-member Home Front Command team.

The IDF delegation was supported by emergency medical specialists from the defense and health ministries, fire and rescue services, Magen David Adom, United Hatzalah and Zaka, among others.

“You did something else,” continued Netanyahu, “You showed the entire world the true and beautiful face of the State of Israel: A small country with a huge soul, a country that rushes to help others around the world and in the harshest conditions, out of humanity and the highest morality.”

Netanyahu was joined at the event by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, mission commander Col. (Res.) Golan Vach and Turkish Ambassador to Israel Sakir Ozkan Torunlar.

“You showed the beautiful face of Israel, of the security establishment and of the IDF. This idea, of which you are the main partners in its implementation, was deeply appreciated by the Turkish people, the public and the leadership. All of you together reflected the various aspects of the mosaic of Israeli society, and all of you showed the face of the beautiful Israeli, who always rushes to extend assistance, in the spirit of the values that guide us as a people and a country,” said Gallant on Monday.

“Alongside our unyielding fight to defend our homeland and our citizens against our enemies, we have always known how to extend a hand to all those in distress and who need help. From an endless sea of pain and sorrow, on an unbearable human tragedy, you were beacons of light, hope and pride,” he added.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen landed in Turkey on Tuesday morning for a solidarity visit following the deadly earthquakes that killed tens of thousands of people in that country and Syria.

Cohen was slated to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to extend “the condolences of all Israelis.”


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