The Mount Carmel Forest Fire Disaster: Hanukkah 2010

Hanukkah is the holiday which celebrates religious freedom and the re-dedication of the The Temple in Jerusalem. It is essentially a holiday that commemorates the separation of the Jewish people from the ways of the Pagan Hellenized Seleucid (Greek-Syrian) regional rulers in 165 BCE.
 
Over 2000 years later on 2 December 2010, The Mount Carmel Forest Fire began at about 11 a.m. (Israel time). The Israel Fire and Rescue Services along with Israeli Volunteer Firefighters, Israeli Police, Israel Prison Service Officers, and the Israeli Defense Forces attempted to contain the blaze. Despite their valiant efforts due to the very dry conditions of that year’s winter season and the lack of appropriate fire-fighting equipment, the fire raged out of control. By mid-afternoon, Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu sent out an urgent call to the nations of the world requesting assistance in battling the blaze. Six hours later, as the sun was setting and many Israelis were preparing to light the second candle of Hanukkah, Cypriot and Greek firefighters and firefighting equipment were landing in Israel to help fight the deadly blaze. The contribution of Cyprus stands in a singular position not only for speed of response but also because the Cypriot Government selflessly decided to send their entire airborne fire-fighting equipment thereby leaving themselves exposed to not being able to fight a large fire in their own nation. The Greek contribution may be considered ironic given the that 2000 years before the Jews had won a victory over Greek-Syrian oppressors, but there are those of us who prefer to view it as beautiful moment of ‘Oneness’ between Israel and Greece.
 
While Cyprus and Greece were the first to respond to the emergency assistance call they were not alone. Seventeen other countries: Turkey, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Finland, Norway, Russia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Jordan, Romania, Spain, Italy, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority responded to the call, sending manpower and equipment and worked together with Israeli Forces for four days to put out the deadly blaze.
 
The Mount Carmel Forest Fire required the evacuation of more than 17,000 people, destroyed almost 50,000 Dunams (12,000 acres) of land, killed or injured area wildlife, and claimed the lives of 44 people. 37 of those who lost their lives were prison service officers course cadets, their commanding officers and their driver, 3 were senior police officers, and two were firefighters (including a teenage volunteer).
 
And yet, despite the fact that this was Israel’s deadliest peacetime fire disaster, there is comfort in knowing that we did not stand alone, the nations of the world responded and working together the fire was extinguished on 5 December 2010.
 
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