Graduation Ceremony for Rosh HaAyin’s Volunteer Firefighters

Friday, December 05, 2014 11:31 AM

"You’re contributing to the community and giving something of yourself, but you’re getting something in return.”

The graduation ceremony for participants in the Rosh HaAyin Volunteer Firefighters’ Course took place at the end of November. Members of the volunteer unit and their families, fire station staff, representatives of KKL-JNF and other dignitaries assembled at Rosh HaAyin Fire Station in an atmosphere of excited anticipation to see the volunteers receive their graduation certificates.

Rosh HaAyin Volunteer Firefighters group photo. Photo: Tali Balilius


Mira Zer and Oz Cohen, Volunteers Officer in the Central Region. Photo: Tali Balilius

This volunteer firefighters’ course was a joint venture orchestrated by KKL-JNF, Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services and the Rosh HaAyin Municipality, in order to increase the number of firefighting personnel available in areas adjacent to forests and woodlands. So far, this collaboration has produced volunteer firefighting units in Karmei Yosef, Hevel Modiin, Mesillat Zion and Elad. The Rosh HaAyin course was the fifth in the series, and there are still more to come.

“This is a win-win situation,” declared KKL-JNF Coastal Plain Community and Forest Coordinator Mira Zer. “We’re taking advantage of the fact that the professionals want extra help with combating forest fires. The most important thing is to keep the forests green and ensure that they don’t turn black.”

KKL-JNF takes a number of 

Yehiel Cohen, Deputy Director of KKL-JNF’s Central Region. Photo: Tali Balilius

measures to help prevent forest fires, including thinning the woodlands, creating firebreaks to stop flames from spreading, encouraging grazing to reduce grasses and undergrowth, and fire watching throughout most of the year from both ground level and observation towers. Sometimes, sadly, fires break out nonetheless, and that is when the help provided by the Fire and Rescue Services is of critical importance.

“We invest a great deal in the development and conservation of the forests,” said Yehiel Cohen, Deputy Director of KKL-JNF’s Central Region. “Every citizen or resident who is prepared to fight for the forest and help to conserve it is a welcome addition.”

“Speed of response is of essence here, and having a team located close to the forest greatly improves efficiency. They can reach the site even before we can and provide the initial response,” added KKL-JNF forester Nurit Hibsher.

The volunteers’ course lasted for six months, during which participants met once a week for theoretical and practical training and studied the role of the rescue services in depth. Twelve people completed the course, among them two women.

Volunteer firefighter Dalia Barzilai. Photo: Tali Balilius

Rosh HaAyin native Dalia Barzilai has volunteered in the past in a variety of frameworks. “The course combines public service with action,” she said. “You’re contributing to the community and giving something of yourself, but you’re getting something in return.” The physical demands of the job did not deter her. “The protective equipment is heavy, it’s true, but it’s not difficult – it’s all a matter of practice.”

“What Dalia lacks in physical strength she makes up for in enthusiasm and determination,” said Firefighter Sergeant First Class Roi Suissa, for whom this was the second course he had instructed. Praised by his superior officers and students alike, Suissa is proud of this group: “This is a very high quality group of people. There are a lot of career army personnel here who understand the nature of discipline, commitment and giving of oneself. They’re also imbued with an altruistic sense of responsibility towards others and society in general. Not everyone can volunteer, especially when it comes at the expense of time spent with the family,” he said.

Gil Blum with his son Uri. Photo: Tali Balilius

Gil Blum
moved to Rosh HaAyin just recently. “I saw an appeal for volunteers in the newspaper. I’m new in town and wanted to contribute. Now I know my way around better, too,” he said. His son Uri was also present at the ceremony. “My dad’s a hero,” the small boy declared with evident pride.

“We’re providing role models for the children,” said Dalia Barzilai. “People are beginning to take an interest. They want to volunteer, too, and are waiting for the next course to start.”

Fire and Rescue Services Commissioner Lieutenant General Shahar Ayalon spoke about the example set by these volunteers who give of themselves for the sake of others. “We regard you as fire safety ambassadors,” he said. “Everything you see that presents a danger to the public – you’re our ambassadors in this regard.”

Firefighting and rescue demo. Photo: Tali Balilius

The ceremony began with an impressive display in which members of the volunteer unit simulated the rescue of an injured man after a road accident. Using mechanical tools under the instruction of the firefighting professionals, they cut open the car and rescued the “casualty” before directing their fire hoses at the flames of the burning vehicle. The spectators, who had gathered at a safe distance away, applauded their performance.

Many prominent figures spoke at the ceremony and expressed their appreciation of the necessity of training volunteers of this kind. Director of Security Daniel Yitzhak, who was representing the Rosh HaAyin Municipality, read out a letter from the mayor, who thanked the volunteers for enlisting in such a worthy cause and concluded with everyone’s heartfelt wish: “Let us hope we never require your services!”

Deputy Regional Commander Colonel Menahem Caspi, who is currently deputizing as Commander of the Petah Tikva Fire Station, recalled how, thirty-seven years ago, when he was a team commander, the area was entirely surrounded by forest and he found himself fighting fires all by himself on more than one occasion. Today he is thankful for the extra manpower at his disposal. “You will be part of the cornerstone of the Rosh HaAyin Fire Station, and we shall provide you with all the help you need,” he told the graduates.

Proud children of volunteer Aharon Aharoni in firetruck. Photo: Tali Balilius

Section Head Tomer Pinkas, who is in charge of volunteer firefighters countrywide, told those present about the 1,500 volunteers scattered throughout Israel in fire stations of both primary and secondary importance. “Two million residents of the country feel even safer now than they did before,” he said.  

Colonel Meir Harel, who is a senior firefighting commander in the central region, promised that more volunteer firefighting units would be set up in the future. “You who are here today are a part of the family, and this building will be the base from which you set out to attend every incident,” he told them.

Director of KKL-JNF's Coastal Plain Region Gilad Mastai presented the graduates of the course and others involved in the project with planting certificates for Rosh HaAyin Forest. The graduates also each received a firefighter’s kit that included a shirt, a fluorescent vest and face masks to ease their breathing. “I hope that we won’t meet at forest fires, but if we do, at least you’ll be prepared,” he said.

Young singer Mor Boni provided the music for the ceremony, at the conclusion of which all participants stood for the singing of HaTikva.

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