Brandeis Marin students send thanks to Israeli firefighters

Firefighters battling more than 1,700 blazes that ravaged parts of Northern Israel last week have a new crop of fans: the third- and fourth-graders at Brandeis Marin.

Earlier this week, students at the Jewish day school in San Rafael learned about the fires from Tal Shaked, Bay Area-based education emissary for the Jewish National Fund. In response, the children wrote and illustrated thank you notes to the firefighters.

“Thank you for protecting Israel,” one wrote. “Your job is really nice. Saving people is a great thing.” Another wrote, “I am sure happy because that fire could have come to the U.S.A. and you stopped it! My favorite animal is a cat.”

Merav Steinberger, Brandeis Marin’s dean of Hebrew and Jewish studies, arranged Shaked’s visit and was impressed with the students’ response.

“I was amazed,” she said. “They felt the pain. They had great questions about the houses, the animals, the pets, the kids. They were really touched.”

The fires, extinguished on Nov. 27, destroyed many homes, structures and up to 32,000 acres of forest. Some 2,000 Israeli firefighters battled the blazes, assisted by personnel and equipment from the U.S. and other nations. The Palestinian Authority also sent 41 firefighters. There were no fatalities reported among citizens or firefighters.

Though she avoided mentioning that many of the fires are being investigated as arson, Shaked impressed on the kids the scope of the devastation and the firefighters’ courage.

Other area schools sent JNF materials and asked to have students write letters to firefighters, including Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School in Palo Alto, South Peninsula Hebrew Day School in Sunnyvale, Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City and the Brandeis School of San Francisco.

Departing for Israel the next day, Shaked took the children’s letters with her, promising to deliver them to firefighters after her arrival.

One of those letters concluded with the words, “You are so awesome. I hope you are OK.” — dan pine