A farewell ceremony was held in Jerusalem for the international firefighting forces that assisted Israel in putting out the recent fire in the Carmel Forest region.

 Farewell event for foreign assistance forces


DFM Ayalon at the farewell ceremony in Jerusalem (Photo: MFA)

(Communicated by the Bureau of Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon)

On Tuesday, December 7, a farewell ceremony was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem for the international firefighting forces that assisted Israel in putting out the recent fire in the Carmel Forest region. Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon spoke at the ceremony and gave each delegation a certificate that a tree was planted on their behalf by the Deputy Foreign Minister.

The Deputy Foreign Minister of Bulgaria, Dimiter Tzantchev, and over 200 members of the international forces from Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Switzerland, the United States, Azerbaijan, Croatia and France attended.

 Farewell event for foreign assistance forces
 Farewell event for foreign assistance forces

Deputy Minister Ayalon with the firefighters (Photos: MFA)

Remarks by Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon:

Distinguished and honored guests, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria, Ambassadors, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, 

I stand before you today in the name of the people of Israel to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your bravery and generosity.

Each and every one of you left behind a family, home and a country and boarded a plane at a moment’s notice to extend your hand in assistance to save lives, both material and physical, in a foreign land. Many of you have probably never been to Israel before yet you demonstrated that your love of humanity and courage literally has no borders.

Despite very real risks, each of you showed a true commitment when you joined with members of Israel’s firefighting forces to fight the flames in the Carmel. Together you became a united and powerful force who fought the fire that threatened to consume everything in its way without mercy or discrimination.

Sadly 42 men and women lost their lives in the line of duty. Their last journey was to save the lives of security prisoners. From this stage I would like to publicly salute the families of the fallen and pray that they receive consolation in their grief. No words can express the magnitude of their loss.

I would also like to send wishes for a speedy and full recovery to the wounded and to promise those who lost their homes that the Israeli government will do all that is necessary to rebuild your homes and return you to your communities.

Those who are here and other firefighters that have already returned are already acknowledged as heroes in your own countries and now you are heroes in our homes as well. We will forever cherish and remember your courage and bravery.

I would humbly like to send the deepest gratitude of the Israeli people and its government to your respective leaders for answering our call for assistance without hesitation. From your response you proved your friendship to the State of Israel and its people. I would also like to thank members of our Foreign Ministry and other government authorities who worked tirelessly to coordinate with their counterparts abroad. Israel faces many challenges and fighting fires is only one of them.

Unfortunately, during this disaster we heard voices from our enemies who celebrate and relish in our tragedies. These same people have lit the fires of conflict and terrorism during Israel’s short history. While they failed to defeat us through these means, they now try and fan the flames through an assault on Israel’s legitimacy.

However, with the assistance of good people and like-minded nations in the international community, we will also douse and finally extinguish these flames as well. Nevertheless, the true lesson of the past week is that Israel is not alone. Lovers of humanity and peace stood side by side with Israel this week through our tragedy, just as Israel has ably demonstrated that it stands side by side with any nation during their time of need.

This is the beauty of the family of nations, just as justice and the human spirit overcame the flames in the Carmel so Israel and the family of nations will together prevail over the forces of destruction in the world.

Now, Israel looks to the future to recuperate what was lost. You planted roots in Israel through your bravery and as an expression of your courageous sacrifice I am honored to present you today with a certificate representing trees that were planted in your country’s name in the Carmel Forest that you helped protect. Now you all literally have roots in Israel.