Do Israeli kids ever learn the fire safety lesson?

The answer, sadly, is no.

There is an unhealthy Israeli-Jewish obsession with fire in the springtime. It starts today – with Biyur Chametz, the burning of chametz, which is done on erev Pessach. Soon will be Yom Haatzmaut – the national barbecue bonanza, and after that, Lag B’omer, which pretty much celebrates bonfires the way it’s done here.

Coming from a country with real fires that kill real people – and being married to an Australian – I can’t express fully how angering it is to see the carelessness with which Israelis treat the issue. Houses may be built of stone here, but the beautiful trees and plants we sing about and name our children for are not fire-proof.

For instance – when my husband went out today to burn our chametz (tiny morsels wrapped in newspaper, in an open space), he spotted a father and son duo who, along with their bread, chucked in the plastic bag they brought it in. The father went so far as to turn to my husband and offer a sound piece of advice: “Hey, why don’t you just throw your plastic bag in there?”

A few minutes later, after he regaled us with that tale, we looked out the window and saw a fire in the forest across the street from us in Tzur Hadassah. Soon after the smoke was spotted coming up from the trees, four kids between the ages of 10 and 12 ran down the hill from the forest, with shit-scared looks on their faces. After calling the firefighters, my huz yelled out to them – “Did you start that? What were you doing up there? Learn from this!”

They ran away, of course. I’m kicking myself I didn’t take a photo of them because I swear  I would have have printed it out and hung signs around the neighborhood calling out for their parents, teachers and friends to be responsible and discipline them properly. I don’t give a shit how old they were. The younger they are, the worse it is. They need to be taught, because clearly someone didn’t pick up that responsibility early on. In the States, we learned about fire safety since we could comprehend English.

The firefighters and police came in a timely fashion, which was a pleasant surprise. But it was too late; descriptions of the kids given to them could describe any of the punk kids running around Tzur Hadassah.

I just hope some spark of personal responsibility or shame made those kids spill to their parents, and that their parents are not the types to coddle them into feeling better because they’re ‘just kids.’

It’s a horrible shame and an embarrassment to me that personal responsibility tends to be lacking around me here in Israel.

 

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