Welcomed like a hero: Meiri Schori who flew to Georgia as part of a UN peacekeeping mission.Israeli police superintendent Meiri Schori has seen a few too many bombings and terror attacks in her life. But she is using these difficult experiences as a means to help the United Nations peacekeeping forces make the world a better place.

“It was really embarrassing,” she says, when she landed in Georgia on a United Nations mission last year. Both the locals in Georgia, and the international UN staff treated her as though she were a hero, simply because she came from Israel.

Schori, in her 50s, is the first Israeli to join the peacekeeping ranks of the United Nations, which sends in police commanders, military experts and civilian citizens from member countries to aid in peace building in war-torn regions.

The idea behind her mission came from the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Israel Police Force. “In the beginning I intended to go to Haiti, but two weeks before, the commissioner thought Haiti as a first mission might be too tough,” says Schori. “Georgia was suggested, and I said why not?”

In 2008, Schori underwent a number of tests and exams and then had a videoconference with the UN headquarters in New York. “They decided to take me and made all the arrangements. I was excited because it was my first mission ever,” says Schori. “Even our former Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni blessed me, and told me she was very proud that we are going to participate [in the United Nations] and especially because I was a woman.”

As an experienced commander in the Israeli Police Force, where she looked after the central region of Israel, from Netanya to Yavne, Schori joined some 20 others from Switzerland, Germany and the Czech Republic and other countries, to help restore a successful police force in war-torn Georgia.

Arrival in a war

She was a good candidate for the job. A divorced mother of twins, now age 26, Schori has had to deal with the aftermath of some of Israel’s worst terror attacks during the second intifada when Islamic terrorists sent a wave of suicide bombers into Israel’s towns and cities.

Schori’s police unit was particularly hard hit. In one attack, on the coastal city of Netanya, she was on the scene treating the wounded and dealing with the dead when the bomb squad warned that there was going to be a second explosion. “It is very scary because there you are on a crime scene, and then you have to wait for them to neutralize the bomb,” she says.

These experiences held her in good stead when she arrived in Georgia on a mission with UNOMIG — the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia – as the war between Georgia and Russia together with Ossetian and Abkhazian was raging.

The war erupted in August when the region of south Abkhazia declared independence, and Schori was there throughout the war.

“Seeing the Russian battalions and tanks in the city, was weird to me. But because I was in the peacekeeping [mission], I wasn’t afraid at all. This is the meaning of being a member of the peacekeeping force,” she says.

On the mission in Georgia, Schori acted as a police advisor, charged with helping the local Georgian police strengthen and operate their own force.

One of the guys

Rather than command other troops, “I preferred to be one of the guys in order to distribute my expertise to more people,” she says.

It wasn’t an easy mission. Aside from the war, Georgia’s police and peacekeepers have to contend with mines, shootings and murders. Despite this, the experience was overwhelmingly positive for Schori who was surprised at how much people there admired the nation of Israel.

“It was outstanding how everyone – local and international people – welcomed me,” says Schori, who wore an Israeli police uniform with a UN beret on her head and UN badge on her shoulder. “You know, actually, I didn’t have to do anything [for this warm welcome] but to be Israeli. They are so happy to have Israel among their peacekeeping forces. They welcomed me like a hero.”

They weren’t the only ones. In May, Schori won a special award of recognition from the Israeli Foreign Ministry for her services at the UN. She was presented the award at a ceremony attended by Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations at the United Nations.

“Schori’s successful service constitutes an historic breakthrough, which paves the way for Israel to integrate, for the first time, into the UN system of officers and soldiers in peace keeping, and to become a member of the Troops Contributing Countries (TCC),” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Schori’s first service with the UN was for a one-year term but she returned home two months early after suffering a broken ankle. With a high evaluation and recommendation from the UN for her first tour of service, she is now eagerly awaiting news of where her next UN mission might be – Haiti perhaps.