As the lyrics of one of Israel's most iconic songs "A thousand firefighters won't be able to extinguish me," played in the background, the second-ever graduating class of the WIZO Nachlat Yehuda Youth Village Fire & Rescue Cadets Program received their completion certificates at a special ceremony at Rishon LeZion's Regional Fire Station.
Two of the program's graduates
Twenty proud graduates, both boys and girls, completed the three-year training program, the only one of its kind in Israel, which aside from teaching firefighting skills, empowers the teenagers from at-risk families and gives then the opportunity to grow and develop into responsible young adults. The unique program, which was established in 2015, currently has over 70 students from grades 10-12 participating in it.
"This program does so much more than just train students to be the next generation of firefighters and rescue workers," Doron Shabi, who heads the program, explained. “It instills in these young people confidence and pride, which is so critical during their teen years, especially considering that many of them come from very difficult family situations.”
Doron Shabi, head of the program
The climax of the ceremony came when the cadets put on a demonstration in which they extinguished a fire set ablaze in an old car.
Seen as Heroes by Younger Kids
A highlight for the students in the program comes on the eve of the holiday of Lag B’omer, when they accompany Israel’s professional firefighters as they go out on bonfire patrol.
"In the program we teach our students how to fight fire and protect the environment,” Shabi said. “But on Lag B’omer, when the Nachlat Yehuda firefighting students arrive in their uniforms and explain fire safety to the elementary school kids, something very special happens. The Nachlat students are much more effective at getting the fire safety message across because they speak the young kid’s language - at eye level. They are perceived by the younger children as heroes.”
Doron Shabi and his Fire Cadets at Nachlat Yehuda
Generously Sponsored by WIZO Federations
This important program would not exist if it were not for the unwavering support of WIZO's inernational federations that sponsor the WIZO Nachlat Yehuda Youth Village, WIZO Switzerland and WIZO USA. WIZO Switzerland has generously funded this program from its inception four years ago and WIZO USA recently joined forces with them to support the program.
“I wish to extend my heartfelt congratulations to the students of the second graduating class of WIZO Nachlat Yehdua’s Fire & Rescue Cadets Program,” World WIZO Chairperson Prof. Rivka Lazovsky said at the ceremony. “You are not only young firefighters, but you each have a fire and a passion which burns within you. You are role models to young children everywhere and I salute you.”
Opening New Horizons
Part of an environmental studies track, which enables the students to receive a full matriculation certificate, the Fire & Rescue Cadets Program includes theoretical study: studying flammability, operating fire extinguishing equipment, treating the injured and more. The Fire & Rescue course does not replace the regular schedule of studies for the students, as they are required to put in extra hours dedicated to firefighting studies. These hours include theoretical classes in the classroom as well as in the field, including practical hands-on training with the fire engines and equipment at the Rishon LeZion Regional Fire Station.
“The Fire & Rescue Program enriches the school's curriculum and gives students an opportunity to reinforce and highlight skills that are not reflected in the regular subjects of study and opens a new career horizon for them,” Galia Meirom, Director of WIZO Nachlat Yehuda said. "This track combines theoretical and matriculation studies with an attractive profession as a firefighter, a role that has a mission and a national need. On an individual level, the content related to firefighting and rescue, is actually a path to personal empowerment for our students."
Most of the students in the track say that they intend to continue to work in the field in the army and in the firefighting system. In addition, many of the students, inspired by their community work as part of the Fire & Rescue program, choose to postpone their mandatory army service for a year in order to do a year of national volunteering.
Photo Credits: Yonatan Sredni