Israel — Israeli firefighters could have received a shipment of brand new fire trucks that would have helped quell the fires that raged over the weekend on Mount Carmel, killing 41 people and turning tens of thousands of dunams into an ashen wasteland.
Instead, a charity group charged Sunday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai refused to accept donations from pro- Israel Christians and thus denied the underfunded Fire and Rescue Service much-needed equipment.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which raises money for Israel among Christian supporters in North America, said his organizations ties with the Interior Ministry were severed after it was taken over by the ultra-Orthodox minister two years ago.
Eckstein said Yishais religious- based rejection of contributions from non-Jewish sources led to the termination after the group had completed delivery of eight fire trucks last year in a donation that had been okayed by Yishais predecessor, MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima).
Since that time, under Yishai we have not received any further requests from the ministry because of the way they perceive us, Eckstein said.
So we could have had more trucks than those we already delivered.
While the fellowship gives millions to Jewish, Muslim and Christian groups in Israel each year, some ultra-Orthodox Jews refuse to take its money, which comes mostly from Evangelicals, on religious grounds. According to Eckstein, Yishai would not even acknowledge the fellowships contribution of the eight fire trucks.
We were told very clearly that the minister of the interior would not come to a ceremony, he said.
Then I said, what about a photo-op, something we can put in to show we worked on this. But they said no, and we dropped it.
The trucks were donated to Israel as a consequence of the Second Lebanon War, when firefighters struggled to put out brush fires sparked by some of the thousands of missiles fired by Hizbullah.
Fire and rescue officials confirmed that they had received the eight trucks from Ecksteins organization but said they were unaware that additional vehicles had been offered and refused.
Yishais spokesman could not confirm or deny the story.