A group of eight Israeli firefighters traveled to Greece in order to train along with the Hellenic Fire Department. The team led by Israeli National Operations Officer Dora Levy stayed in the country from August 18 to 28. They trained with Greek firefighters and even took part in missions of the Greek Disaster Task Force (EMAK) to help tackle the issue of forest fires in areas such as Cephalonia, Kalamata and Rhodes.
After ten days, the group has gained valuable experience, while the program also helped in strengthening relations between the fire brigades of Greece and Israel.
Israeli Ambassador Irit Ben-Aba visited the firefighters’ training facilities and was greeted by the Head of the Hellenic Fire Department Vasilis Papageorgiou and EMAK Commander Athanasios Serentellos. The Ambassador thanked Papageorgiou for welcoming the Israeli group and stressed the importance of the bilateral cooperation in the field of civil protection.
The visit was organized by the Fire Brigade Commanders of both countries, the Israeli Fire and Rescue Commissioner Shahar Ayalon and Papageorgiou, after the former attended a European fire drill in Greece, in June 2014.
In March 2014, Papageorgiou had also visited Israel with a Greek delegation in order to promote the cooperation of the two countries in issues of civil protection, under a Joint Declaration was signed by the countries’ Ministers of Public Order in 2013.
Israel and Greece have been fighting fires and disasters together for many years and have built a strong bond of solidarity. The Israeli Navy helped the residents of Cephalonia during the 1953 earthquake, rescued people in Athens in the earthquake of 1999 and helped Greek firefighters during the Peloponnese fires in 2007 while Greece cooperated with Israeli forces to fight the fire on Mount Carmel in Israel, in 2010.