(photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi)
Israeli firefighters could have received a shipment of brand new fire trucks
that would have helped quell the fires that raged over the weekend on Mount
Carmel, killing 41 people and turning tens of thousands of dunams into an ashen
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Instead, a charity group charged Sunday, Interior Minister Eli
Yishai refused to accept donations from pro- Israel Christians and thus denied
the underfunded Fire and Rescue Service much-needed equipment.
Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and
Jews, which raises money for Israel among Christian supporters in North America,
said his organization’s ties with the Interior Ministry were severed after it
was taken over by the ultra-Orthodox minister two years ago.
said Yishai’s religious- based rejection of contributions from non-Jewish
sources led to the termination after the group had completed delivery of eight
fire trucks last year in a donation that had been okayed by Yishai’s
predecessor, MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima).
“Since that time, under Yishai we
have not received any further requests from the ministry because of the way they
perceive us,” Eckstein said.
“So we could have had more trucks than those
we already delivered.”
While the fellowship gives millions to Jewish,
Muslim and Christian groups in Israel each year, some ultra-Orthodox Jews refuse
to take its money, which comes mostly from Evangelicals, on religious grounds.
According to Eckstein, Yishai would not even acknowledge the fellowship’s
contribution of the eight fire trucks.
“We were told very clearly that
the minister of the interior would not come to a ceremony,” he
“Then I said, what about a photo-op, something we can put in to show
we worked on this. But they said no, and we dropped it.”
The trucks were
donated to Israel as a consequence of the Second Lebanon War, when firefighters
struggled to put out brush fires sparked by some of the thousands of missiles
fired by Hizbullah.
Fire and rescue officials confirmed that they had
received the eight trucks from Eckstein’s organization but said they were
unaware that additional vehicles had been offered and refused.
spokesman could not confirm or deny the story.