Israelis Brought “Hope and Love” in Miami’s Dark Hour

“Miami-Dade County and the town of Surfside will never ever forget what you have done for us here”

By Ryan Jones | | Topics: Israeli Goodwill
Illustration. Israeli and US rescue teams train together. Photo: David Azagury/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv

Search and rescue experts with the IDF Homefront Command didn’t succeed in finding any survivors after being dispatched to help sift through the rubble of a collapsed apartment tower near Miami. But when it came time for them to head back home, the mayor of Miami said that the Israelis had succeeded in bringing “hope and love” to both her city and the suburb of Surfside, Florida, where the ill-fated tower was located.

“We are here joined by our friends from the Israeli Defense Forces who have come into our lives, our heroes and she-roes from across the world, and brought with them hope, hope and love,” said Miami Mayor Daniella Levine Cara at a farewell ceremony for the IDF troops. “They are departing tomorrow, and they are the last of the mighty team that came. They assisted us every step of the way with our search and recovery effort. We want to recognize their great service to this community as they depart. They depart us physically, but remain in our hearts.”

“Miami-Dade County and the town of Surfside will never ever forget what you have done for us here,” added the mayor. She concluded by presenting the commander of the Israeli task force with a “key to the county.”

Media images showed American fire, rescue and police crews lining up to shake hands with and send off the Israelis. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky honored the IDF troops by making them honorary members of his department.

The town of Surfside is home to a great many Jews, and a high percentage of the victims in the tower collapse were Jewish. That prompted the Israeli Consulate in Miami to immediately offer the assistance of the IDF Homefront Command’s highly-experienced search and rescue crews. Levine Cara said she didn’t hesitate to jump on the offer.

In the end, however, even Israel’s vaunted experts failed to pull any survivors from the ruins, and all 121 people listed as missing had to be assumed dead (by press time 90 victims had been positively identified).

Still, Americans across the country were touched by the Israeli effort. The commander of the IDF team, Col. Golan Vach, attended the shiva (mourning) gatherings for some of the Jewish victims whose remains his troops had recovered. And in one particularly notable incident, Col. Vach verbally sparred with a CNN reporter over how to properly respect the deceased.

“We found some more people,” the Israeli commander told the reporter.

“You found more bodies,” the CNN journalist attempted to correct.

But Col. Vach immediately shot back: “We found people, unfortunately they were not alive.”

The difference between the way these two men spoke of the deceased was not lost on Americans. On social media they praised Col. Vach for his “profound” respect and empathy. “The Israeli commander’s humanity and professionalism is heartening in a sea of destruction and tragedy,” wrote one commenter.

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