Netanyahu, Peres honor foreign rescue workers


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu honored foreign rescue and fire fighting delegations that assisted in putting out the Carmel Forest fire.

During a ceremony Tuesday at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, the Israeli leaders presented certificates of appreciation and awards to the heads of each foreign rescue delegation for their efforts and assistance in extinguishing the fire.

Some 300 members of the delegations participated in the event, including firefighters, pilots, emergency response experts and ambassadors from 10 countries.  The delegations represented Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Britain, United States, Russia, Jordan, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority, according to the president’s office.

“Thank you for your mission which is neither diplomatic nor foreign relations but rather expresses the highest form of human responsibility,” Peres told the participants. 

“In helping us douse the flames, you have warmed the hearts of the entire nation and you have shown us that we are not alone," Netanyahu said. "You have shown us that around the world there are people of good will that will help us in our hour of need. I believe that this rapid international response can be a model for future cooperation in our region. I thank each and every one of you for your courage, your dedication and your friendship. The people of Israel, an ancient people with a long memory, will never forget what you have done for us.”

Christos Oikonomou, head of the 70-member Greek rescue delegation, spoke on behalf of all of the foreign teams, saying in part, “On behalf of those who contributed in the fighting of the fires in the Mount Carmel region of the last few days, I wish to express our deepest sorrow and profound sympathy to the relatives of the victims. At the same time I wish to express our deep satisfaction and pride for being able to assist our Israeli colleagues in their tremendous struggle to control the fire. Real friends speak with their deeds. We are your friends and that’s what we tried to do."

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