An area of forest the size of New York’s Central Park in the hills surrounding Jerusalem was destroyed by fire in recent days as hundreds of firefighters worked alongside water-bombing aircraft and police to extinguish the blaze.

More than 2,650 dunams (about 650 acres) of woodland were destroyed by the fire with 267,000 liters of fire retardant used.

Multiple apparatuses were utilized during the operation, including a Mercedes-Benz Unimog 20 fire truck equipped for fighting fires in the heavily forested central region, donated through Jewish National Fund-USA by national board member Edward Blank.

“I feel a deep sense of gratitude for Israel’s brave firefighting men and women who valiantly battled the fires and brought them under control,” said Blank. “The fact that there was no loss of life is a testament to their skills, and it was important that they had the right equipment to achieve this outcome.”

A Mercedes-Benz Unimog 20 fire truck was used to help put out the June 2021 fires around Jerusalem, donated through Jewish National Fund-USA by national board member Edward Blank. Credit: JNF-USA.

Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services Commissioner Dedi Simchi reported that “we gained control of the fire after a considerable effort. We were able to contain the fire at Ma’ale HaHamisha and prevent danger to the other communities. Thankfully, we have access to great technology, including thermal imaging cameras that help us during the night to ensure the fire does not reignite.”

According to Israel’s Fire and Rescue Authority, the source of the fire is still under investigation with some reports suggesting the fires were deliberately lit.

Blank added that he hopes his efforts to support Israel’s firefighters will also help connect the next generation to their homeland. “I’m proud that the firefighting equipment I donated in honor of my grandchildren was able to play a role in extinguishing the recent fires,” he said. “I hope my philanthropic work will inspire them to connect to the land and people of Israel in a way that’s meaningful for them.”

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