The first to respond were Greece and Cyprus. While such European giants as Germany and Britain were asleep, Hellenic pilots were climbing into their cockpits for their short flight to Israel, while dozens of Greek firemen, well trained in dealing with large forest fires, volunteered to help Israel. Four Greek firefighting aircraft arrived at Israel’s Ramat David air base early in the morning. They were greeted by the Commander of the Israeli air force, General Ido Nechoshtan, who simply said “the skies are yours”. The Greek pilots were joined by Israeli navigators and immediately began filling their planes with sea water and dumping it over the flames, which already reached the eastern areas of Haifa, an industrial metropolis of a million citizens. Greek efforts were bolstered by Cyprus’s only fire-fighting helicopter, which arrived from Larnaca, and by 100 firemen from Bulgaria. Firefighting efforts are now frantically concentrated on saving lives and preventing further urban areas from being consumed by flames.
When Nazi Germany conquered Europe, including the Hellenic Republic, the United States Senate wanted to keep the US out of the war. US President Franklin Roosevelt, in perhaps the most memorable speech of his political career, strongly called for help to the besieged people of Europe. When your neighbor’s house is on fire and you have a water hose, he said, you don’t wait and argue; you give him the water hose and help him fight the fire. The Hellenic government and people acted today in the spirit of Roosevelt and all freedom-loving people in the world. Such help, which only a few years ago may have seemed unthinkable, continues to strengthen the growing bond between Israel and Greece, between the Jewish and Hellenic people. We are both small minorities threatened to be engulfed by a sea of radicalism in our region. With their rich heritage and history, both the Hellenic and the Jewish people fought for three thousand years to preserve their own identities and cultures. Today’s help will not be forgotten. Israelis salute the help of the Greek government, army and authorities, and the bravery of those Greek pilots and firemen who came to us in our hour of need. Well done, friends!