Fire truck to travel from Long Island to Israel

By Brandon Bain
Newsday (New York)
Copyright 2007 Newsday, Inc.

NEW YORK — Rabbi Charles Klein took a quick spin around the Merrick Jewish Centre parking lot yesterday in a brand new red compact fire truck.

The truck had just arrived at the center from Wisconsin and in days will be on its way to Israel, via New Jersey. For Klein, the truck represented the biggest gift his 700-member congregation could give; a water pump to Sderot, an Israeli town frequently hit by Palestinian rockets launched from the nearby Gaza Strip in the ongoing conflict between the two sides.

During a meeting with his congregation months ago, Klein asked members if they would donate $100,000 toward building the truck and sending it to Israeli towns in need.

Within two weeks, Klein said members surpassed the goal. He said he chose Sderot, a town of only 23,000 people, when he learned it lacked a water pump after recent battles with Palestinians.

"The town comes under rocket attacks every week and many people have been seriously injured and have had a lot of property damage," Klein said following a dedication at the center. "There is a particular need for fire vehicles."

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg toured Sderot this weekend following a rocket attack. Bloomberg, who traveled in an armored vehicle during his visit, dedicated a $6.5-million emergency rescue service station to his father in Jerusalem and denounced terror during the visit.

The small trucks are part of a growing effort by the nonprofit Jewish National Fund to get local congregations to raise funds for 100 new fire trucks to be sent to Israel. In the past two years, 21 trucks have been sent to Israel, with 35 expected to be delivered in early 2007, according to Charles Weg, a volunteer for Friends of Israel Firefighters.

The compact truck - which firefighters say is better equipped to travel through tight spaces and - has the capacity to hold roughly 300 gallons and can pump out around 8 gallons of water per minute.

Weg said the trucks have been widely used in larger towns in northern Israel.

"It allows a lot of the small towns to be self-sufficient or at least have some response," Weg said. "It might cut down the amount of time to respond to a fire from hours to minutes, which is critical."

Klein, who visited Israel recently, said a small delegation of about 50 members would tour Sderot in the summer to see the truck in action.

"The town is having a tough time," said Dr. Steven Kussin, president of the Merrick Jewish Centre. "Maybe we'll save some lives." 

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