jerusalem fire 88 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
When people around the world picked up their newspapers and read about the bombardment of missiles on Israeli cities, few chose to personally get up and help the war effort.
But 50 members from the Monsey, Hillcrest and Spring Valley, New York Fire Departments answered the call to duty in a way few others would dare - by flying to Israel and volunteering in Northern Israel Fire departments.
"We read in the paper what the Israeli fire fighters were doing and we wanted to show our solidarity to our fellow firefighters and brothers in Israel. We decided that volunteering for the fire department there was a thing we could all do," said Nathan Rothschild, commissioner of the Monsey Fire District and one of the firefighters traveling to Israel, speaking to The Jerusalem Post from his Monsey home on Sunday.
The group of volunteers was set to arrive in Israel mid-week and travel North to help replenish the depleted fire departments. The volunteer firefighters' service was coordinated in conjunction with the Friends of Israel Firefighters (FIF), but it was the volunteers themselves who came up with the idea to come to Israel and lend a helping hand, said Eldad Halachmi, director general of FIF.
The volunteer firefighters said they are prepared to do whatever they can to help, be it extinguishing fires in the North or maintaining the firehouses.
"Basically we are ready to do anything and everything we can, and use our skills as firefighters to help with any attacks that there are," said Rothschild. "And if they just need us to man fire stations to allow the regular Israeli firefighters to go up North and do their jobs, we will do that, too."
The only equipment the volunteers are bringing are their own American fire suits. Other than the suits, the volunteers are depending on the equipment of the Israeli Fire rescue services, which Rothschild described as "good or better than some of those in the US."
Of the volunteers traveling to Israel, the overwhelming majority are Jewish; a few, however, are not, which Rothschild said was a pleasant surprise.
"Actually, to date I have had some calls from non-Jewish firefighters who also wanted to come and we were amazed. We expected solidarity from the Jewish firefighters, but it's great to see it from the non-Jewish firefighters as well," said Rothschild.
All the volunteers traveling to Israel are doing so at their own monetary expense, but despite the cost, the volunteers said they are excited and more than willing to help out for as long as necessary.
When asked exactly how long the New York firefighters plan to stay, Rothschild responded simply, "whatever it takes."
Also assisting the Israeli Fire Fighters is Colonel Frank Luvienr, a prominent figure in the French fire department. Luvienr arrived in Israel late Sunday night and has assumed a position at the Haifa fire house. According to Halachmi, Luvienr will not actually be extinguishing fires, but will act in a position similar to that of a deputy fire chief.
Halachmi said he could not thank all the volunteers enough for their willingness to help the Israeli Fire Department.
"They [the volunteers] are doing the most that one can do with their own life, and we should praise these people," said Halachmi. "They are the true friends of Israel and we only hope that others can do as much as they possibly can, because right now the Israeli fire fighters are doing the most that they can do without the equipment and manpower that they need."