In April I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Eilat, Israel in support of the Logistics, Relief and Shelter training hosted by the Magen David Adom (MDA) and the Jordan Red Crescent (JRC) Eilat is Israel’s southernmost city, located at the northern tip of the Red Sea adjacent to the Egyptian village of Taba and the Jordanian port city of Aqaba.
After twenty hours of travelling from San Francisco, I arrived in Tel Aviv – tired, but so excited for my first visit to the Middle East. Tel Aviv is officially one of my favorite cities now! It is so alive and cosmopolitan.
During the bus ride from Tel Aviv to Eilat there were miles of agricultural land which turned into miles of open space dotted with Bedouin communities. I was fascinated to learn more about the Bedouin history from one of the volunteers who lives there. We soon found ourselves in a spectacular desert landscape. Watch out – CAMELS on the road. Yes, an everyday occurrence for many – a Kodak moment for Anne.
No rest for the weary, we got right to work the minute we arrived, organizing a simulation of the first 72 hours following an earthquake. In addition to presenting sessions on logistics, shelter, and relief activities, we worked on how to conduct initial assessments, and provided strategies for the integration of assistance from other Red Cross/Red Crescent societies. We worked very long days, but no one minded as we were so excited to share information.
I was fascinated to learn about the expertise of the Magen David Adom and Jordan Red Crescent societies. MDA serves as the ambulance and paramedic service for Israel. They do not have as robust a role in disaster response as we do domestically, but they are exploring ways to build this capacity. The JRC volunteers and staff have become very proficient in establishing refugee camps and settlements, but also wanted to expand their understanding of disaster response operations.
We broke into small groups. My group met with the local emergency manager for the city of Eilat to learn about their response plans and local supply caches. I coached my team to inquire about local government’s expectations of the MDA. One team member asked the city manager, “What does success look like for you?” I felt like a proud parent!!
Dr. Mohammad Al-Hadid, President of the Jordan Red Crescent and Dr. Noam Yifrach, Chairman of MDA Executive Committee, made the trek to Eilat to express their gratitude to all who participated, and reiterate their commitment to working together. This was quite moving knowing the obstacles these societies face everyday.
Another five-hour bus ride and an early morning trip to the airport had me headed back to California. I am still riding my “high” from this trip. This was one of the most rewarding Red Cross experiences I have had to date – and having been with the Red Cross for over ten years, that is saying something! To all of my new friends and colleagues, Toda and Shukran.
Anne Reynolds is the Disaster Officer for California, Oregon, and the islands
she is also a member of the International Disaster Roster