December 28, 2003 - Tens of thousands died in a major earthquake two days ago in the Iranian city of Bam.
Iran appealed to the world community for help, and accepted all offers but one: aid from Israel was refused.
Even though Israel considers Iran its greatest existential threat, Israel offered to help. In expressing its condolences the Government of Israel said it had no conflict with the Iranian people. An official statement said: "The Government and people of Israel are moved by the human tragedy experienced by the Iranian people and believe that despite all differences a mobilization of the whole international community is needed to come to the help of families of the victims and wounded."
In response Jahanbakhsh Khanjani, speaking for Iran's Interior Ministry, stated: "The Islamic Republic of Iran accepts all kinds of humanitarian aid from all countries and international organizations with the exception of the Zionist regime."
Israel has a long record of humanitarian aid. It has sent such aid, including rescue teams and supplies, to earthquake victims in Afghanistan, Turkey, India, and El Salvador.
Israel's offer to reach out even to an enemy might have become an opportunity to build a bridge between people, in spite of political differences. Unfortunately the ungracious response of Iran's fundamentalist government has once again shown the world Islam's ugliest face.
Israel's gesture demonstrated that the enemy is not people, it is hatred. There will be no peace until hatred is recognized as the true enemy of everyone. But hatred has won another round, without a word of protest from the rest of the world.
Fathi, Nazila. "Iran Quake Toll Rises to 25,000; Injured Fill Hospitals, and Streets." New York Times, December 28, 2003.
Jpost.com Staff. "Iran Asks for Aid from Any Country Except Israel." Jerusalem Post, December 27, 2003.
News Agencies. "20,000 people die in earthquake in Bam, Iran." Haaretz, December 27, 2003.
Peace with Realism