Nov 29, 2016  By Udi Gal  Category: Environment,

A firefighter's report from the front lines battling Israel's massive blazes

Brave firefighters working to calm the blazes. 

Stories of bravery and strength have begun pouring in following the fires that devastated Israel over the past week. Here, Udi Gal, a Jerusalem firefighter, tells JNF Impact about his experience.

Fear is not something that exists in our lexicon.We have had a rough week of fighting fires while dealing with difficult weather conditions, very dry air and strong winds causing the fires to flare up and spread within minutes. I salute and am proud of our firefighters who worked days and nights almost without rest, with great professionalism and courage to minimize the damage and ensure that everyone can return home safely. They risked their lives to save residents, animals, forests, and houses.

Rama's Kitchen is just one example of destroyed property.
My personal connection to this tragedy goes deep. You might have heard of a restaurant that caught fire in Nataf Valley called Rama's Kitchen, located just above the valley overlooking an amazing view. This is actually where my wife has worked as events manager for the past eight years. The fire quickly spread from Katane village to Nataf Valley and within minutes the entire restaurant went up in flames. It was all gone. Nothing left.

When our team first saw the fire coming, Rama, one of the restaurant's owners, tried to save what she could from her home next to the restaurant. I saw her running around with fire extinguishers and water hoses, and she clearly was not ready to leave. I had to physically pull her away so she would understand the severity of the situation, the real danger present.

Fortunately, this all happened a few minutes before the fire reached the restaurant.
I saved the life of my wife's boss.
Udi being greeted by his kids 
upon returning home Sunday.

We love Rama and the restaurant very much and our hearts are broken for the loss, but we are glad no one was hurt. 

My beloved three children are the real heroes in this story. They give me the strength, determination and joy to handle such situations bravely. I missed them terribly during my week away, but we sent messages to each other and talked on the phone.

They waited patiently for me to get back home, but it was not easy for them. My 4-year-old son yesterday told me, "Dad, I thought you would never come back home," breaking my heart with his words.There are no words to describe our joy being together again.

Wishing Israel good days, happy days, and a lot of rain.

JNF is raising much-needed funds to help Israel's firefighters rebuild and replenish their supplies, among many other needs in the aftermath of the worst fire in Israel's. To contribute to this important campaign, click here