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Presentation to Israeli Defense Force Rescue Team
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen , Israeli Ministry of Defense Tel Aviv, Israel , Friday, March 12, 1999

Minister [of Defense, Moshe] Arens, General [Shaul] Mofaz [Chief of General Staff], Ambassador [Edward] Walker, General [Gabi] Ofir [Commander, Homefront Command], members of the Israeli Defense Force Search and Rescue Team.

Across the hall from my office in Washington hangs a painting of a soldier in prayer, a painting graced in gold with words from the Book of Isaiah. It reads, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Here am I. Send me." Today it is my honor to praise brave souls who on summer’s day heard the cry of suffering in a distant land and said, "Send me."

As the sun was setting to begin the Sabbath, your offer of help went forth to an America in the shadow of sadness. Your nation, as ever, stood ready to help our nation. The citizen-soldiers of the IDF Search and Rescue Team put down pen and shovel, bid farewell to family and friends, and by the next morning were able to bring their skill and mercy to those in need.

Your flight took you into the horror of twisted metal caused by twisted minds. And from a mass of rubble you pulled not only your fellow humans, you brought forth our humanity. By reaching out across oceans and cultures and faiths and a thousand miles, you showed that transient differences can be transcended by common goodness. You showed the world that, amidst the debris of cruelty, there is a compassion that has the power to restore faith.

Your noble deeds also remind the world of a fundamental truth. Our nations stand together. We know that a strike at one is, in fact, a strike at both, and that to accept an offense against any peace-loving nation is to surrender to the madness of those who would rather dig fresh graves than heal old wounds, and who rejoice in the slaughter of innocents. We can defeat this common and cold-blooded threat only by supporting and standing with one another as you did during those days of August.

Today we offer recognition of our gratitude and your bravery. We offer this in the name of those who lived and those who were lost. Indeed, we offer this in the name of all who the Rescue Team has saved, from Nairobi to Armenia to Mexico City, and for all Americans who know that a true friend stands ready to offer its strong arm in time of need.

It has been said that, "Heroism is the brilliant triumph of the soul over fear, the dazzling and glorious concentration of courage." By that, and any, measure you are heroes indeed. You have triumphed over those who live by fear and terror. You have shown that in the face of hate and horror, where others might shrink from duty in revulsion from the task before them, you stand ready to answer the call. Yours is, by any measure, a glorious courage, a courage in service of mankind.

So until Isaiah’s prophesy of peace comes to pass. Until "nation shall not lift up sword against nation." Until the day that terror is no longer among us, the world will ever sound the call for heroes like you, and be built upon the bonds that bind nations such as ours.

On behalf of President Clinton, America’s diplomatic corps, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, on behalf of all the American people, thank you for all you have done. We shall be eternally grateful.