Volunteer Firefighter Unit in Ultra-Orthodox Elad

Monday, December 30, 2013 11:32 AM

“The volunteers do not just respond to fires – they also strengthen the relationship between the community and the forest.”

KKL-JNF and the Israel Fire Service have established a new volunteer firefighting unit in the ultra-orthodox city of Elad – the fifth unit of this kind to be founded in communities adjacent to forests, on the initiative of KKL-JNF and with the help of its Friends abroad. The volunteers have completed their training course and are now beginning to operate as an auxiliary firefighting force in conjunction with the local fire station.

L-R:Senior Fireman Yankele Shani, Elad Mayor Israel Porush, Fire Department Chief Meir Harel
present certificates to newly initiated firefighter volunteers. Photo: Yoav Devir

At the volunteer course graduation ceremony, Elad Mayor Israel Porush stressed the importance of expanding cooperation with KKL-JNF in areas such as the education of ultra-orthodox young people nationwide and encouraging local youngsters to help care for the community forest. “When we’re in the business of saving lives, we can overcome all the difficulties,” he told the volunteer firemen.

Demonstrating rescue techniques - prising open a car door. Photo: Yoav Devir

“The first cup of water on the ground – that’s what this type of force is referred to in firefighting jargon,” said Central District Fire Department Chief Meir Harel. “These volunteers provide the initial response, which can save us from using up the entire contents of the Kinneret if there is a delay in putting out the fire.”

The volunteer course graduation ceremony, which was held at the Elad Fire Station, began with an impressive display by the volunteer unit, which staged the rescue of a man from a burning vehicle after a road accident. The volunteers stripped off the black suits and hats so characteristic of the ultra-orthodox community and exchanged them for firefighters’ uniforms. Using mechanical equipment, they cut through the body of the car, rescued the “injured man” and doused the flames with water hoses. Fire officers who watched the exercise declared themselves impressed by the volunteers’ skill and expertise.

Naftali Karni, Director of KKL-JNF’s Forest Information Department, himself a resident of Elad, represented the organization at the ceremony. “We in Elad have the privilege of being surrounded by forest,” he said. “The woodland provides us with a green belt, enhances the environment and improves our quality of life. KKL-JNF is working to develop infrastructure in the forest so that a variety of community activities can be held there.”

This is the fifth volunteer firefighting unit to be established under the auspices of KKL-JNF, with the help of its Friends worldwide, in a community adjacent to a forest. It was preceded by similar units in Karmei Yosef, Kfar Chabad, Hevel Modiin, and Mesilat Zion, and an additional unit is due to be set up soon in Rosh HaAyin. “The volunteers do not just respond to fires – they also strengthen the relationship between the community and the forest,” said KKL-JNF Coastal Plain Community and Forest Coordinator Mira Zer.

KKL-JNF Scout Reuven Sofer awards certificates to course commander Roi Sussia and course coordinator Oren Shesinsky. Photo: Yoav Devir

Effie Stern
, Director of the Elad municipal hotline, spoke on behalf of the volunteers: “This unit will spearhead the development of additional groups of volunteers,” he assured his listeners.

“He who saves a single Jewish life saves an entire world,” quoted Menachem Caspi, the regional fire service deputy director. Praising the volunteers, he said that they “displayed the strength of their humanity when they got up from their comfortable armchairs at home and went out to save lives.” “The volunteers represent an important value and constitute an auxiliary force that we cannot do without,” added senior fireman Yankele Shani.

Reuven Sofer, a KKL-JNF scout in the Coastal Plain region, said that the volunteers have a significant contribution to make where firefighting is concerned, as they live close by, know the area well and will be the first to arrive on the scene.

At the end of the ceremony the volunteers were presented with certificates that confirmed they had graduated from the course. Roi Suissa, the course commander, accepted a token gift from the local mayor and the regional commander, and was applauded enthusiastically by his erstwhile pupils. Each volunteer was presented with a backpack generously provided by KKL-JNF. The mayor and the senior fire service officers cut the tape and inaugurated the new Elad fire station.

Central District Fire Department Chief Harel concluded the proceedings with an expression of good wishes to the new volunteers: “I very much hope that you will remain unemployed as far as firefighting goes, but that, when you are required to take action, you will be in the right place at the right time.”

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