TJN: Local firefighters are going to Israel to aid their counterparts who have been deployed to fight fires in the northern part of the country that is under attack by Hezbollah missiles. Among the participants is Itamar Yeger, an attorney for the Rockland County Legislature who is deputy mayor of the village of New Hempstead. “It’s a humanitarian gesture, really, in that we’re not going to fight, obviously, we’re going to help out the firefighters who are already in Israel who are being overworked now,” Yeger, who belongs to the Hillcrest Volunteer Fire Department, said yesterday.Nathan Rothschild, a Monsey resident and member of the Monsey Volunteer Fire Department, is organizing the effort.
“I was reading in the papers that there was a tremendous amount of firefighter activity in Israel and they were calling on people from all over the country. … I realized that they probably had a need to replace the firefighters that they were calling up north to put out the fires from the missile attacks and related activity,” said Rothschild, who is president of the East Ramapo school board.
Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon have been battling since July 12.
Rothschild, 49, said his offer of help to the Israeli government’s director of fire services was eagerly accepted. He said volunteers were found through word of mouth and the Ner Tamid Society, an organization of Jewish firefighters.
About 50 firefighters from Rockland, New York City and Long Island will leave for Israel in the next three weeks. The first group is tentatively scheduled to leave today, but the departure could be delayed until later this week.
All of the volunteers are Jewish, but an additional five or 10 non-Jewish firefighters who are interested could likely take part in the mission, Rothschild said.
“Some of the guys will be there for four or five days, some a week or two, and some might stay until this whole thing is over,” said Rothschild, a marketing director.
The volunteers do not yet have definite assignments and will be allowed to choose their duty station, he said.
Although homes in Israel are primarily constructed of stone � as opposed to houses in Rockland, which are mostly made of wood � Yeger said the volunteers were prepared for the challenges.
“We’re aware of all different types of construction and are able to handle ourselves in all difference circumstances,” he said.
As for working in the tense environment, the firefighters did not express serious concerns about potential danger.
In fact, Hillcrest volunteer firefighter Shlomo Pomeranz, another member of the contingent, said danger is part of the day’s work.
“Firefighting is something that I’m trained to do,” he said. “When it comes to firefighting, I have no qualms. But when it comes to traveling to a land that has some issues, I feel that my life is in God’s hands, as it is every time I walk into a burning building.”
Pomeranz, who works as a warehouse manager in Goshen, N.Y., said he had no reservations about joining the mission. The New Hempstead resident has siblings and other relatives who live in Israel.
“There was no question in my heart that it’s the right thing to do. … With everything that’s going on, we can pray and we constantly have them in our minds, but I feel I have a gift with this unique training to be able to help,” said Pomeranz, 35.
His wife, Adeeva, praised the initiative.
“I’m actually very proud of him and all of them for going,” she said. “They have an ability, they have a training, and the state of Israel, which every Jew considers their homeland, is in need of their assistance, and of course you go.”
Participants are either taking vacation or have been given special time off by their bosses.
Most of the venture’s funding has been provided through private donations, although some volunteers are paying their own airfare, Rothschild said.
Two hotels in Israel have agreed to house the volunteers when they are not working, he said.