December 7: Learning from disaster

The tragedy of the Carmel forest fire is not the loss of life, but the failure of authorities to take the proper steps at the proper time.

letters pink 88 (photo credit:)
letters pink 88
(photo credit: )
Learning from disaster
Sir, – The tragedy of the Carmel forest fire (“The battle to save the burning North,” December 5) is not the loss of life, not the trees that went up in flames, not the homes threatened, but the failure of authorities to take the proper steps at the proper time.
Any bright high school student could predict that after a long spell of hot, dry weather, the forests would be kindling dry and even a carelessly thrown cigarette could lead to a disaster. During such dry periods, a full blown alert should be declared – but not, of course, by our leaders.
Philosopher George Santayana said years ago: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We will be condemned to repeat it if we fail to seriously shake-up those in responsible posts, not only in regard to fire fighting, but future terrorist attacks and future wars.
Ramat Gan
Sir, – The magnitude of the Carmel fire may have been beyond the capabilities of even adequate foresight, funding and preparation. But in the days to come – in keeping with the Bible portion about how Joseph, viceroy of Egypt, prepared the country for disaster – much soulsearching will take place.
We seem to have learned little in 4,000 years. Constructive proposals are therefore in order. One proposal would be to create a regional firefighting structure for the eastern Mediterranean. No one country can afford the full cost of maintaining a permanent force, with all the planes, equipment and supplies necessary to fully meet a disaster as serious as the Carmel blaze. With the good assumption that such a disaster will not strike more than one country at a time, resources could be pooled – one for all and all for one.
Cyprus, for example, could be a likely site for a permanent airborne firefighting force. A suitable name would be RAFID – Regional Airborne Firefighting Deployment.
The writer is a retired US foreign aid officer
Sir, – Will the Carmel inferno be any different from the 1997 Maccabiah Games catastrophe, where those in charge absolved themselves from their responsibilities? I believe it should be an example to those in our community who condone corner cutting, incompetence and a lack of accountability.
There is one certainty that will take place over this tragedy, and that will be the blame game, where individuals will be made scapegoats. A comprehensive inquiry should take into account one of the major reasons this calamity occurred: It was an accumulation of years of complacency and apathy through a lack of education by the political system that many of our community have no pride or could not care less about their environment and surroundings.
Sir, – Years and years ago, Israel was offered the opportunity to purchase special firefighting aircraft from a Canadian manufacturer. The geniuses running the country at the time decided they did not need such aircraft. Since then, we have suffered countless forest fires, the total costs of which have certainly exceeded what such aircraft might have cost.
Nobody stopped to consider that firefighting airplanes might have been designated defense equipment, particularly when history has shown us that many forest fires have been deliberately set by our enemies. Now we have gone begging to Europe to provide us with – guess what? – those very same aircraft! In the meantime, people are dead, thousands of dunams of forest have been destroyed, towns, kibbutzim and even Haifa were placed in peril.
Is anybody paying attention out there?


Sir, – For many years I served as member of the Savyon local council. Savyon was at the time a member of the Petah Tikva Firefighting Association, which included several other towns and villages.
After a fire in Savyon completely destroyed a house before the fire brigade could arrive, the chairman of the Savyon council tried to arrange with the Interior Ministry that we join a fire station located much closer. All efforts were flatly rejected.
The regional head of the ministry explained that each firefighting association covered several local authorities, some of which had severe financial difficulties, and in order to keep operating, the association needed the right mix of local authorities so that even if some were in chronic arrears, its operations could continue. Transferring Savyon, a village able to pay its share on time, to another firefighting association might seriously affect the delicate balance.
This is a wonderful system because no one in government is responsible for the lack of services or their quality! If a board of inquiry recognizes this problem and brings about a change, its report will be worth its weight in gold.
Government has to be directly responsible for critical public services.
This is not a problem that requires reform of the firefighting services or its privatization.
Kiryat Ono
Bleak... and incredible
Sir, – “The bleak logic of Bennie Begin” (Editor’s Notes, December 3) was an outstanding interview.
Bennie Begin must be the most articulate person out there. It absolutely cheered me up to know that there is someone who speaks the incredible truth.
Beit Shemesh
Music, maestro
Sir, – During many years of reading the Post, I have often wondered why there is such meager coverage of classical music on your pages.
The almost whole-page display of someone’s warped sense of pop in the December 2 Arts & Entertainment section (“Meet the most original guitarist you never heard of”) is only one example of the tasteless articles that appear frequently. Recently, you have seen fit to publish stories about a “psychedelic indie band” from the US, a weird, glitzy country singer in Las Vegas, and similar banal characters.
Israel is blessed with countless great classical musicians who appear regularly in many different venues. Renowned Israeli musicians are performing in cities all over the world. Thousands of young people are studying music in the great academies here. Where are the reviews of concerts by the world-class Israel Philharmonic, the Jerusalem Symphony, the pianists, violinists, chamber music ensembles, choirs and composers who contribute so magnificently to the musical life in our country? Why does the Post so blatantly ignore this significant element in our culture? Is it possible that there is no one on your staff who is capable of writing knowledgeable articles about classical music events and the musicians who provide them? I sincerely hope that you will reconsider your policy and improve your coverage of classical music in Israel.
Teach ’em young
Sir, – The dire aquatic straits we are in were brought home very poignantly one recent morning.
Late the previous night, a helpful neighbor knocked on our door to inform us that he heard the sound of running water in our garden. Upon checking, I found a major leak in our irrigation system and was forced to turn off the water main to the house.
Our seven-year-old secondgrader, who had learned about the critical water shortage our country is facing and had learned about the need for water conservation, burst into our bedroom early in the morning in panic crying out, “Abba, ima, it finally happened, the Kinneret has run dry!” Out of the mouths of babes!


Beit Shemesh