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One year on, Israelis remember Sichuan earthquake
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08:18, May 12, 2009

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May 12 marks the first anniversary of the most devastating Sichuan earthquake in China over 30 years, which has claimed more than 80,000 lives and displaced millions of others, leaving many more hearts broken in Sichuan province.

A year later, from one of the smallest nations in the world to one of the biggest, the people of Israel looked back and commemorated the Sichuan earthquake.

Some Israelis remembered being glued to the television, watching updates of the news on the earthquake in the comfort of their own home, thousands of miles away, during the time of the earthquake.

Assaf Mizrachi, an Israeli living in Tel Aviv, told Xinhua that he could not forget the reports of the heart-breaking Sichuan earthquake.

"I saw it on national television and it seemed to me that the whole areas of China had been mourning for the victims of the earthquake," he said.

His friend Dror Ben-David said, "My wife and I felt very sad that so many Chinese people lost their entire world in just a few seconds, losing their spouses, children, houses and jobs."

Oded Balilty, an Israeli photojournalist, witnessed the destruction of the earthquake when he worked in China for the Associated Press.

"I have seen a lot of large-scale disasters around the world, but this was the first time I had seen a disaster on this scale," he told Xinhua.

"I saw the destruction, the homeless and injured civilians all around me," said Balilty, who has won many awards for his photography worldwide, including the World Press Photo award and the Pulitzer Prize.

"Only when I looked at my photographs later, I realized the extent of the destruction," Balilty said. "I remember how I was impressed at fast responses of the Chinese government at evacuating the injured and clearing the ruins."

Avital Feldman from south Israel remembered her own experience of a recent trip to the earthquake-affected area.

"I just returned back from China a few months ago and I saw the destruction like it happened yesterday. When I returned back to Israel, I saw on CCTV (China's central television) that the Chinese government had founded a special department to pass money and resources to rebuild the entire area and it warmed my heart and made me so happy."

Feldman recalled how two Israelis, Ma'ayan Segev and Anat Bilu, were rescued in a nature reserve in the Sichuan province.

"I remember the Chinese people struggling to selflessly help the Israelis who were trapped after the earthquake, and the Israeli people felt deeply appreciated," she said.

Segev and Bilu who were part of a group of students of Chinese medicine from the Reidman College of Complementary Medicine, were found alive by a local Chinese who helped them out to safety.

"I remember many Israelis watching with the deepest concern and distress at the tragedy that was faced by China and its people in the wake of the earthquake," said Feldman.

As soon as the extent of the disaster became known, Israel sent two planes full of humanitarian aid to Sichuan in a gesture of care and support, according to Nadav Eshcar, first secretary of North East Asia Department in Israeli Foreign Ministry and the former spokesman for Israeli embassy in China.

"It was not only the donation of the government, but also from many private companies and Israeli people who gave generously when they heard about the tragedy in China," he told Xinhua.

Eshcar expressed his condolences to the people in Sichuan who are still recovering from the earthquake.

"It is a very sad tragedy. Many Israeli people, from the bottom of their hearts, do whatever they can to help, to assist, to donate something."

On behalf of the Israeli people, Eshcar also wished that quake-hit Sichuan would make a speedy recovery.

"One year has already passed since the tragedy happened. We wish for the people of Sichuan to go back to normal life as soon as possible," he said.


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