JNF Wire: New York Couple's Fire Station Dedication Brings New Life to Mitzpe Ramon
March 31, 2016
Adam H. Brill, Director of Communications
New York Couple’s Fire Station Dedication
Brings New Life to Mitzpe Ramon
By: Allison Levine
Stephen and Penny Rosen of Brooklyn, NY with JNF CEO Russell F. Robinson
in front of the newly dedicated fire station in Mitzpe Ramon.
On a recent Friday in mid-March, a crowd gathered for the dedication of a brand-new fire station and fire trucks in the isolated desert town of Mitzpe Ramon. The new station and fire trucks were made possible through a Jewish National Fund (JNF) project and with the generous support of Penny and Stephen Rosen, who dedicated the new station in honor of Stephen’s parents, Yetta and Ben Rosen. Joining the Rosens at the event was Russell F. Robinson, CEO of JNF; Roni Marom, the mayor of Mitzpe Ramon; dignitaries representing various fire departments from around Israel; and a large crowd of JNF leaders and donors who were visiting Israel on JNF’s $1 Billion Roadmap Tour.
But this is not just any other dedication. This is a story of how JNF and the Rosen family embarked on an initiative to build a new firehouse that has saved the local fire department from closing down.
“We got to the point of ‘to be or not to be’ in Mitzpe Ramon,” says Yuval Kalminovitz, the firehouse chief. “Our facilities were in terrible shape. Our firemen slept in different locations and then had to run over here each time there was a call.”
Moshe Swissa, head of the entire southern region for the fire department, adds, “What I saw here was awful and beyond words. We couldn’t even get new trucks because they wouldn’t fit into the existing facility. The building itself was crumbling, with asbestos in the ceiling, and no meeting rooms or sleeping quarters.”
The new, modern firehouse now serves the 5,000 residents of Mitzpe Ramon with an emergency call response time of 2-3 minutes. Two new fire rescue trucks have arrived, with a third ordered and on its way. Since the Mitzpe Ramon fire station covers a huge area of territory, the new trucks enable teams to respond to emergencies throughout the region much faster. Mitzpe Ramon answers calls as far away as Yerucham, 34 miles to the north, and up to Neve Harif, located 55 miles to the south.
Mitzpe Ramon, though not a large city, sits on the edge of the breathtaking Ramon Crater, and is a major tourist destination on the road to the Israeli resort town of Eilat. Unfortunately, there are many traffic accidents on the twisting roads that descend into the crater, which the fire department responds to throughout the year.
The town of Mitzpe Ramon was founded during the years when Route 40 was being constructed leading to Eilat. Over time, especially with the completion of Route 90 — which stretches along the Jordan River and Dead Sea and bypasses Mitzpe Ramon — the town was neglected and began suffering from acute socio-economic problems. But now, the town is becoming a focal point for tourism and local culture in the vast expanses of the southern Negev desert, with stargazing and jazz festivals among other attractions.
And, as for JNF’s involvement in Mitzpe Ramon, the fire department marks just the start of the myriad projects planned here. A new center called “Creation above the Crater” is in the works to serve as a place for innovators and entrepreneurs, and will target young professionals. The new center will include open workspaces, as well as conference rooms, high speed internet, and equipment for business presentations. Another JNF project under development is a skateboard park, to serve both the residents in the area as well as the increasing number of tourists who make Mitzpe Ramon a stopping point in this part of the Negev.
Penny Rosen, from Brooklyn, New York, has previously been involved in projects in the center of Israel. She said that she “learned through JNF that in order to keep Israel safe and secure, we need to work on the periphery and the borders. We want people to be protected. You never want to call the fire department, but it’s also crucial for them to be there to respond when needed.”
Robinson echoed this idea: “It’s not just about the fire station or the fire trucks,” he said, adding, “It’s about turning a town into a community and allowing people to build their home here. We hope that it will be a boring service for the fire department, but we know that it is not.”
More than just providing services in times of emergencies, the new fire station is now able to establish connections within the community. With the opening of the new facility, a fire scouts program has formed for teens age 15-18, and seminars and sessions are held for the community on fire safety and prevention.
“The work that JNF is doing in the periphery is so important, and my heart is full of joy seeing what is happening here in Mitzpe Ramon,” adds Kalminovitz.
Designating the dedication of the new fire station in honor of Yetta and Ben Rosen, the Rosens spoke about how important this project has been to their family. “I was taught that you should leave this world a better place,” said Penny, speaking about how her journey started with the examples set by the strong women in her family. Stephen noted that anything connected to Judaism or Israel was important to his father, who passed away in 2010.
Looking forward, the Rosens are hoping to make a similar difference with the fire station in Yerucham, and are looking for partners to work with JNF to make it happen. “We are so proud to be a part of the JNF family,” Penny said. “America is my home, but Israel is the home of my soul.”
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JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.
JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.
JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and United Nations NGO, which continuously earns top ratings from charity overseers.
For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit www.jnf.org.