new york firefighter 88.
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Eleven New York firefighters put their lives on hold this week and paid their way to Jerusalem, where they have been volunteering in a number of understaffed stations.
Because of rocket-caused fires in the North, fire stations elsewhere started sending units to help, leaving places like Jerusalem in need of more personnel.
"It's a good feeling to know somebody's thinking about you," said Arik Nisimov, a firefighter at the Giva station. "That here are guys that will come and help, no matter how far we are between countries."
Nathan Rothschild, commissioner of the Monsey fire district in New York's Rockland County, who planned the whole trip, said 22 more firemen would be coming to Israel next week to replace firemen in other parts of the country.
He said that his relationship with the Fire and Rescue Services began when it contacted him several years ago with a request to find cheap fire trucks. He managed to get what was needed for about 20 percent of the cost.
When he heard about the Katyusha attacks on the North, he correctly assumed that fire departments throughout the country would come under severe strain. He then had the idea to gather volunteers to help, immediately got the approval of Shimon Romach, the Fire and Rescue Services commissioner, and three days later they arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport with a warm welcome and a minibus that said "New York Firefighters."
The New Yorkers have been getting to know their local counterparts while helping them respond to calls since Monday.
"We learned that Israeli 'chick-chak,'" Rothschild said. "It's amazing to see they can successfully do it as firefighters as well."
"Firefighting is the same job no matter where you go," said Evan Humphrey, one of the volunteers. "It's one big brotherhood like everybody says."
As well as working hard, the New Yorkers pray three times a day and visited the Western Wall for Tisha Be'av.
For Jacob Strauss spirituality was paramount in his decision to come and help Israel. "Religion played a big part," he said. "We mention Yerushalayim all the time in our daily prayers. To talk is one thing, but to actually act and to actually help is another."
Eli Sabo, who is also an undergraduate at Yeshiva University, agrees that there was a very Jewish feeling of duty. "We all feel a strong connection," he said. "As opposed to just sitting there watching what's going on, we wanted to help out."
The Israeli firemen interviewed, as well Ofer Shefer, the instructor officer of the fire department, were extremely grateful that the New Yorkers came to help.
"I think it's unbelievable," Ofer said. "They're full of Zionism, they're full of wanting to help. Excellent people, and we enjoy them very much - first of all because they're all professionals. They are very well trained. Secondly, they're very nice people."
"It makes us all feel very good," said Doron Moshe, a fireman at the Giva station. "It's like a big brother over there watching us. Knowing that when you need him he will come makes you feel peaceful. In Israel, at this time, the general mood is about going and helping. They have a Thanksgiving once a year, we have a war. Everybody's together helping each other."