Out there, far away past the towering Andes, in the distant country of Chile, Israel has been getting some positive, yet surprising exposure. In Chile, just like any other place in the world, children grow up with the dream of being firefighters. But here, there is a chance to put out fires and to feel close to Israel at the same time.
The country has two fire squad stations called “Bomba Israel,” a slang expression for a powerful vehicle. One station is in the capital Santiago, and the other in the coastal town of Valparaiso. In Santiago, there are a few dozens of firefighters in the squad, most of them Jews from the local community.
In Valparaiso, the volunteers are not Jewish, but feel close to the Jewish People and to Israel. The two squads take extremely high pride in “representing” Israel, especially since these are the world’s only fire stations named after the Jewish state.
Firefighters from both stations had visited Israel in order to learn from the Israeli experience in firefighting. Groups of Israeli firefighters have visited Chile, headed by the head of the Holon fire squad Avi Peretz. The Israeli squad visited the two stations in Chile and was surprised to see fire engines with Israeli flags flying high and proud, and a Menorah and Star of David emblem on the firefighters’ uniforms.
The firefighting squads in Chile are made up of volunteers and are highly esteemed in the South American country. The Israeli embassy in Chile says that vehicles and fire engines decorated with Israeli flags and signs help promote Israel’s image in the eyes of the local community.