As most of us watched in horror and felt helpless as multiple fires consumed too much of Israel, fortunately, U.S. firefighters and other firefighters from around the world temporarily set aside their normal lives and went to Israel to help. One wishes that they know how grateful those of us who support Israel are. The local firefighters never would have gotten there if it were not for the loving devotion and diligence of Patty Vallance, a gift to our community, who made all the right connections (with help from Mike McKendrick, chair of the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation and Oshrat Barel, director of the Weintraub Israel Center), so that an exchange was established between Israeli and Tucson firefighters and ultimately, an unbreakable bond. It never would have happened without her.
But that experience is not the only one that touched our hearts in the midst of the tragedy. I made phone calls to family and friends in Israel and spoke to Zeidan Atashi from the Druze village of Osifiya on Mount Carmel. Zeidan was Israel’s first non-Jewish diplomat and for many years, was a frequent visitor to Tucson and most recently, met with members of an inter-faith mission to Israel led by Oshrat. I was profoundly moved when he told me that 50 families in Osifya offered to house victims from Haifa in their homes until they are able to return to theirs; Druze hospitality is legendary, but this gesture defies description.
In the unsettling times we are living through, these stories of the best of humanity give me hope.