Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Symbol of Hope – The Work of the Red Cross in Israel

by Sydney Holt, American Red Cross volunteer contributor

T.D. & MDA Director
Chaim Rafalowski 
A simple symbol can say so much. For National Boss Day, I caught up with our boss, American Red Cross North Texas Region CEO, T.D. Smyers, about his recent trip to Israel for a joint leadership gathering with Magen David Adom, otherwise known as MDA, the Red Cross society in Israel. MDA has been officially recognized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as Israel’s national aid society since 2006.

Smyers was one of a select group of CEOs invited to travel to Israel for an information exchange with our counterparts on the other side of the world. The relief workers in Israel were interested to hear from Smyers and the other CEOs about responses to catastrophic emergencies in major US urban centers. His biggest take-away from the experience: “Different symbols, same principles.” 

This short, but profound statement from Smyers as he recapped his experiences perfectly describes Red Cross’ efforts abroad. “Regardless of religious or political affiliation, socio-economic status, race, age or gender – Red Cross is in the business of helping people,” said Smyers. “And although our symbol differs from the MDA’s it represents the same in any disaster situation – hope.”

More about the efforts in Israel – 

  • The Red Cross symbol as we know it was the original protection symbol declared at the 1864 Geneva Convention – it’s purpose being to introduce a uniform and neutral protection symbol
  • The “cross” is not a Christian cross, but the inverse of the Swiss flag
  • Two other largely recognized symbols throughout the world are the Red Crescent and the Red Crystal – these symbols are used in countries where the appearance of a cross may alienate some, such as majority Muslim populations

  • MDA’s two main focuses are to provide emergency medical and blood services – they provide 99% of civilian and 100% of the military blood supply
  • MDA has a very developed, robust disaster response force that leverages the use of newly-developed technologies such as personal communication devices with geo-location aiding volunteer response and mobile apps for the general public

Upon returning from Israel, Smyers is excited to share the lessons learned with Red Cross workers here in the states. 

To learn more about the ICRC and the American Red Cross's International Services, visit


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