JERUSALEM, Israel – What would happen to the Holy Land during an earthquake? Many seismologists say the land of the Bible is overdue for a big one.
Despite the deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians are now collaborating in a unique project to save lives in case of an earthquake in the region, CBN News has learned in this exclusive report.
Israel's Ben Gurion University and the European Union came up with the project called "Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT). It aims to "train local residents as first responders in case of an earthquake," Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel's national emergency rescue service, said in a statement.
The Israeli MDA, Jordanian Red Crescent and Hebron's Greenland Association Palestinian) trained separately but simultaneously in a 100-hour course in areas such as crisis-evaluation, first aid, psycho-social support, rescue, re-establishing shelter and community resilience.
But that's not all.
"Above all, the project has sparked personal relationships and friendships that prove that regional collaboration is indeed possible," said project head Prof. Limor Aharonson-Daniel, Ben Gurion University's deputy rector for International Academic Relations and head of the Prepared Center for Emergency Response Research.
The Great Rift Valley runs in part through Israel from the Golan Heights and the Galilee down to the Dead Sea and along the Jordanian border to the Red Sea. That passes nearby Palestinian Arab areas, too. Many experts say the region is long overdue for a major earthquake.
"An earthquake in the Great Rift Valley is a possible scenario that poses a threat to residents of the area," said Eli Bin, MDA director general.
"I am confident that collaboration with the Jordanian Red Crescent sets the ground for mutual assistance in case of emergency along the Great Rift Valley," Bin said. "MDA will continue to establish collaborations, practice, and prepare for any possible scenario so that it is able to provide quality treatment to the Israeli public in real time."
For the Israelis, the project culminated with a drill and ceremony, attended by the president of the Jordanian Red Crescent. MDA has held several joint drills with the Jordanians over the past few years.
That hasn't happened with the Palestinians but one Palestinian, who asked not to be named, praised the collaboration in the project between the Palestinians and MDA.
"The cross boarder project that we have with MDA is one of our most important and crucial cooperation and we are very proud of it," he told MDA on behalf of CBN News.
"MDA's professional knowledge that it has shared with us is an asset to us. This is a step toward a deeper cooperation on future projects and sets the ground for positive interaction during disasters and peaceful days," he said in response to an email query.
The teams are trained to provide residents with initial treatment, shelter and pyscho-social support until EMS teams can arrive at the scene. They'll be positioned along the areas, which would likely be hit by an earthquake. In the case of an emergency, first-response teams throughout the region will be able to assist one another.
Those trained in Israel were also qualified as "MDA Life Guardians," who can be summoned using a mobile app to treat other emergencies until MDA teams can arrive.