One of the most important and correct decisions that Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu made in reaction to the Carmel forest fire was to quickly reach out to
the world, a move not to be taken for granted.
In Israeli culture there
is a strong ethos of self-sufficiency and independent-mindedness inherent to a
political movement that rebelled against its own tradition in order to radically
remake the image of the Jew. For many of us, one of the central lessons of the
Jewish people’s long history of hardship is that “we can rely on no one but
ourselves.” Besides, psychologically speaking, it is much easier to give help
than receive it.
But there is another Zionist ethos, one that calls for
the normalization of the Jewish people as a nation among nations. An integral
part of the normalization process is not only to be the first to offer aid to
other countries – which Israel does frequently and well – but to have the
requisite humility to accept aid from others. Thankfully, Netanyahu lost no
time, personally calling the heads of governments across the globe. The warm
outpouring of help in response was remarkable.
Ceremonies marking the
departure of the international contingent of firefighters have been taking place
this week, including at the Nevatim, Ramat David, Tel Nof and Haifa air force
bases. No fewer than 192 crewmen from a variety of countries received a special
thanks. The Jerusalem Post would like to add its appreciation.
• Azerbaijan – 2 helicopters
• Bulgaria – 1 plane and 92 firefighters
– 1 plane, 8 firefighters and fire retardants and suppressants
• Cyprus – 1
plane and 1 helicopter
• Egypt – fire retardants and suppressants
• France – 5
planes and fire retardants and suppressants
• Germany – 1 plane, 7 firefighting
experts and fire retardants and suppressants
• Greece – 7 planes, 34
firefighters and fire retardants and suppressants
• Holland – 5 firefighting
• Italy – 1 plane and fire retardants and suppressants
• Jordan – 3
truckloads of firefighting equipment and materials
• Palestinian Authority – 21
firefighters and 3 fire engines
• Russia – 3 planes and 22 firefighting experts
• Spain – 5 planes
• Switzerland – 1 plane, 3 helicopters and a team of 14
Turkey – 2 planes
• The UK – 2 helicopters
• The US – 5 planes, including the
Evergreen supertanker, 11 firefighting experts and fire retardants and
suppressants. There were also eight American firefighting planes en route to
Israel when the government told Washington it no longer needed their assistance,
as the flames had been brought under control.
A 60-person firefighting
team about to depart from Idaho was also told its services were not needed, but
remained on standby.
MANY OF the foreign pilots who scrambled to come
here had never flown in Israel before, and there was a Babel of languages that
made coordination among the various flight teams more difficult. There were also
technical problems such as, for instance, maneuvering the huge Russian Ilyushin
planes at the Tel Nof base. But these hurdles were overcome with a lot of expert
planning and a strong willingness to cooperate.
The fire is now
extinguished and the international teams are slowly making their ways back to
their respective countries. Routine will reign again.
But perhaps as a
consequence of their experiences here in working with Israel to save lives,
relations that were already warm will become even warmer. And perhaps relations
that had grown cold, notably those between Turkey and Israel, will warm a little
in the wake of Ankara’s assistance. It is hoped that there will be a similar
warming of relations with others among our neighbors.
In times like this,
when catastrophe strikes and innocent human lives are threatened, we all gain a
new perspective on what is really important.