Israels helping hands deserve praise

It's been a long time since Israel got a hint of praise in the world's secular media — much too long for most of us.

So in some twisted sense last week's tragic bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania brought a sense of pride alongside a shudder of horror.

Israel earned the distinction as the first country to send help to Kenya, by far the site with the greatest number of dead, injured and missing.

After receiving rabbinic permission to break Shabbat laws in order to preserve life, the government flew in about 150 soldiers and tons of equipment to help dig out the living and the dead. The Israelis arrived Saturday afternoon — one day after the attacks — and have worked unceasingly since then.

Unfortunately, Israelis know all too well what to do in the aftermath of terrorist bombings. They are experts in mangled metal and crumbled cement. They know how to work with victims who are closer to death than to life.

Does Israel have any ulterior motives for its humanitarian efforts?

Perhaps the quick response is the return of a favor owed since Kenya helped Israel in the 1976 rescue of hostages in Entebbe, Uganda. Maybe Israel is trying to gather intelligence about the terrorists, who are surely enemies of Israel as well as the United States. Or, possibly, Israel knows the rescue effort is one of the few ways to gain world approval while the peace process remains deadlocked.

If the bombers are Islamic militants, they must be cringing at Israel's good press.

Of course, no other country that comes to the rescue would face such scrutiny of its motives. And it's still possible that Israel can help just because it's the right thing to do.

Certainly, this isn't the first time that Israel has sent relief abroad. The country offered assistance after earthquakes in Armenia and Mexico in the 1980s, as well as after the 1994 famine in Rwanda and Zaire.

So thank you, Israel, for following up words of sympathy with action, and for using your hard-earned expertise to help others in pain.