Ambulances donated by friends of Israel from throughout Ireland were deployed in response to the unprecedented disaster of the Carmel Forest Fire, which claimed over 40 lives, decimated at least 50,000 dunams of Carmel forestland, damaged 250 homes, and caused over 200 million shekels worth of damage, according to initial estimates.
The MDA, Israel’s version of the Red Cross, was at the forefront of treating the injured. Over 50 MDA ambulance crews were involved in providing emergency treatment and ferrying the injured to hospital.
In May 2007, the Jewish communities of the Republic and Northern Ireland, supported by Christian Friends of Israel, dedicated three ambulances which were based in the north of the country, close to the affected area. At the ambulance dedication service in Haifa, attended by both the Irish and British ambassadors to Israel, a letter of support was read out from then First Minister of Northern Ireland, Ian Paisley. Each ambulance proudly displays the Irish harp alongside a red Star of David and bears the inscription: “Donated to the People of Israel by the Jewish communities of Dublin, Belfast and Cork and Irish Christian Friends of Israel”.
The MDA’s Director in the UK, Eli Benson, thanked supporters of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel for their quick and generous response to the current crisis by contributing to the Carmel emergency fund. He confirmed that the ambulances dedicated by Irish supporters in 2007 were amongst those deployed in the response.
Israel, which is often amongst the first to contribute aid in response to international disasters, such as in Haiti, has gratefully acknowledged assistance from the international community in putting out the fires, including from Russia, the USA, the UK, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority. Israel has pledged to augment its firefighting capacity by the purchase of specially adapted planes which it says will be available to neighbouring countries in times of emergency.