Personal Stories

We Saw the Unity of Israel From Within the Flames

One week after the great wave of fires that swept our country Eli Assoulin an airborne fire fighter explains what strength a Torah Lecture has.
“You go into the flames with a simple filter mask because your oxygen breathing tanks are already finished, but you want to carry on and help. People are crying to you begging you to help them so that their homes and all their memories don’t go up in flames. You are totally focused on one thing: “this is war and my orders are to save (people and property).” Eli told in an interview with Yated Neeman.

“This fire was a ‘treetop fire” which is totally out of your control. You can’t usually put out the fires up in the  treetops the whole grove is burning, rather you sprinkle the homes in the area  with fire hoses hoping they won’t catch on fire. However one fiery pine cone can burn down everything! In a treetop fire these pinecones are like fiery grenades. They fly over us get into a house and that’s it, they destroy everything. This is what happened in many Haifa homes. We tried protecting even homes not directly near the fire and along comes a fiery pine cone that somehow got into the home and…..

Under normal circumstances Eli is grounded at his base in a Haifa airstrip. “I’m from an airborne firefighting group whose job is to put out fires on air force bases. We don’t normally leave our posts but in this great fire that raged around Haifa one group was on standby and my group went to fight the fires.”

“We came to the Horev Yeshiva and we were told “take charge of an area and start working!” we had no clear instructions we just storming the fire like any enemy because everything around us was on fire!”

“My friend went into the fire and merited saving a Bet Midrash!”

“My friend Eli Schwartzberg went into the flames and merited saving a bet midrash. We all had tears in our eyes for this was the only bet midrash in the area. People cried “what will be if it gets burned we don’t have another in the area?” We cried and sprayed our hoses. You don’t get to save a bet midrash every day. People removed the Torah scrolls to safety, crying and praying that the bet midrash be spared. You’re
standing on the fire ladder spraying your hose and people are praying that you are successful.”
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“What was the most difficult part for you?” asks the interviewer and Eli answers: “the most difficult thing was people coming to me with red eyes, from tears and smoke begging me to save their home.My insides are emotionally burned out as I don’t know what to do! I’m working in one area and can’t leave it! But people also need me elsewhere! I wished I could split up and be everywhere at the same time but that’s impossible!”
Eli adds, “The weekly Torah lecture we receive at our station this past year is life altering! This is an honor for us and something we don’t forego. Once a week for an hour and a half perhaps two hours Rabbi Yosef Zarka, an ‘Arachim” lecturer from comes from Rechasim speaks to us about life, faith, unity, child rearing and harmony in the home. Life in our station has changed and I have no doubt that it helped us a lot when we plunged into the flames “Eli says with great emotion.

“ For almost a year we heard talks on ethics once a week, it does something to you.  We all come, even the station commander, and all our lives have been altered! We have an awesome unity in our station today, but it wasn’t always that way! There used to fights and problems but it’s all behind us! We’re not the same people we were last year. We saw that unity in the flames last week. We actually fought to leave the airstrip it was important for us to help. It was a mission, a holy mission! We couldn’t do it without unity. People all around are begging you to save their homes and all you have is a filter mask and no oxygen tank. There was this amazing unity and great desire to help!

“I have no doubt that this was because of the Torah lectures that turned us into a united group of people with a desire to help at any price. This is not simple. Everyone in our group felt that the weekly lectures we merited to hear from Rabbi Zarka are what caused us to do everything we could to save the people and their property.” Eli explains.

Eli continues “Perosnally, our family went to a seminar on Judaism and our whole house changed! My first grade son is now in a  Chinuch Atzmai Talmud Torah school in Kfar Gidon. He rides daily from Afula, a five minute ride. He’s in a small class in a small school that without grabbing headlines treats each child like an only son! My son comes home with Jewish concepts new to us and our whole house has changed!


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