Friday, May 23, 2014

'Fireman’s fireman' honored with new truck in Jerusalem

By June Glazer 

No. 38 is the newest fire truck in Jerusalem. Weighing in at 12 tons of red fiberglass and pulled by a 240-horsepower engine, it is capable of driving over steep hills, rocks, and ditches, and is perfectly suited for the terrain of Israel's capital city and its surrounding forests.

Last week, family and friends gathered at a fire station in Jerusalem's Givat Mordechai neighborhood to dedicate No. 38 in memory of fallen American firefighter Captain David L. Bailey from Los Angeles, California. Captain Bailey, who died in the line of duty in 2012, was known as a "fireman's fireman," and the truck, which will bear his name in perpetuity, testifies to the esteem in which he was held by those who knew and loved him.

"Dave was one of the most highly certified firefighters in the Los Angeles County Fire Department," said Sam Heller, Bailey's good friend and the force behind acquiring the fire truck for the Jerusalem fleet. "At his funeral, which was attended by over 2,000 firefighters, the fire chief who spoke asked all those assembled to rise. Then he listed multiple accreditations and one by one asked the firefighters to remain standing if they held that accreditation. After going through a long list of possible accreditations all fighters were seated, to which the Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief said, 'If Captain David L. Bailey was among us today, he would still be standing. That's the kind of professional firefighter Dave was.'"

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Extreme makeover Be'er Sheva River Park: From garbage dump to eco-wonder

The city of Be'er Sheva, whose population in the greater municipal area is close to half a million, is fast overcoming an image problem. The city had been long regarded by Israelis as a sleepy, run-down development town, a dusty pit stop on the way to Eilat.

That is no longer the case. In the past few years, the city has experienced a makeover that almost defies belief. Museums, theaters, high-rise upscale apartment buildings, high-tech parks, giant malls, and new parks and restaurants have appeared around the city. The former dilapidated town is gradually undergoing an aesthetic gentrification and the city's outer suburbs are nestled on green hills dotted by cool water fountains.

Nothing demonstrates this transformation as dramatically as the Be'er Sheva River Park. As if by magic, the park was created in an area described once as the "armpit" of the city, in what was a dry riverbed near the southern entrance of the city piled with wrecked cars, garbage, and sewage. It took months of cleanup with trucks going in and out to dispose of the rotting trash that had accumulated over decades.