KKL-JNF Switzerland Honors The Swiss Task Force to Carmel

February 10, 2011 16:54

Throughout the period of the terrible fire that raged on Mount Carmel in early December, ground and air teams dispatched from a variety of different countries could be observed lending Israel a helping hand.

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KKL_1002111_D. (photo credit: KKL)

Throughout the period of the terrible fire that raged on Mount Carmel in early December, ground and air teams dispatched from a variety of KKLdifferent countries could be observed lending Israel a helping hand. Switzerland sent a special team of the Swiss Air Force and the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) comprising 37 people and three firefighting helicopters.

In appreciation for the support extended to Israel by the Swiss government, and as an expression of thanks to the Swiss Team for their role in the mission, KKL-JNF Switzerland decided to inscribe the Swiss task force in KKL-JNF’s Golden Book. KKL-JNF Switzerland presented the certificate of inscription to the task-force commanders at the organization’s main Tu BiShvat event, which was held in Zurich. Brigadier-General Peter Zahler, Chief of Staff of the Swiss Air Force, and Colonel Stefan Balsiger, who commanded the task force to Israel, received the certificate in front of an enthusiastic audience of five hundred guests who had come to watch a performance by Israeli musician Idan Raichel, large numbers of journalists and the entire Israeli diplomatic corps posted in Bern. For long minutes those present stood up and applauded the excited airmen. 

KKL-JNF emissary to Switzerland Jariv Sultan congratulated the task force members, and told them, “As an Israeli, I am proud to serve in a country where support for Israel during the difficult days of the fire was so widespread, overcoming all differences of opinion, as we saw from the Swiss government’s swift and unhesitating reaction in sending a task force to Israel.”

Brigadier-General Zahler spoke for Swiss Air Force Commander Lieutenant-General Markus Gygax, who was unfortunately unable to attend the event, expressing the commander’s warm regard for those present and thanking them on his behalf and on behalf of the Air Force for the honor bestowed upon them by their inscription in KKL-JNF’s Golden Book.

Colonel Balsiger told his audience: “The Swiss nation’s supreme mission is to extend help to friends in time of trouble – not only in cases of tangible and immediate danger, but also in those cases where the environment needs to be protected for the sake of a better life in the future. On the Monday, after we had finished putting out the fire, I flew over the burned area to get an idea of the extent of the damage. Let me tell you, I’ve carried out a lot of missions in the course of my professional life, in different parts of the world. Damage such as I saw on the Carmel is rare, and I can tell you with certitude that there is no country in the world that could have coped successfully with a blaze like that without international help.”

The colonel continued: “After our operational activities were over we had the opportunity to spend a few more days touring Israel, and we were received with great honor by the President, Mr. Shimon Peres, and the Prime Minister, Mr. Binyamin Netanyahu. Throughout our entire stay in Israel the members of our team were welcomed with warmth anKKLd gratitude by Israelis wherever they went, and I’m happy to tell you that the country now has thirty-seven additional advocates. Some of us have already booked our next holiday, in Israel this time!”

Colonel Balsiger himself has no need to book a tourist excursion to Israel, as, just a few days prior to the outbreak of the Carmel fire, he informed his commanders of his request to terminate his long service in the Swiss Air Force in order to immigrate to Israel. We should like to extend a very warm welcome indeed to the Colonel!

For Articles, comments or use please contact
Ahuva Bar-Lev
KKL-JNF – Information and Publications
Email: ahuvab@kkl.org.il
Phone: 972-2-6583354 Fax:972-2-6583493

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