MONTICELLO – Sullivan County Public Safety Commissioner Scott Schulte knows firsthand what Israelis and Palestinians are enduring. He’s in southern Israel at this very moment.
“We’ve already had rocket attacks,” Schulte confirmed from a spot not far from the Gaza border on Friday.
The Ulster County native and firefighter has long been a member of the Emergency Volunteers Project, a disaster relief & rescue organization whose primary mission is to deploy volunteer teams to Israel in times of crisis.
“We’re under Israel’s National Fire Service, approved by the Knesset,” Schulte explained.
“I’ve been deployed twice before, but this is the first time for a fully declared war.”
And during this 14-day deployment, he fully expects to be assigned to areas of Israel under direct attack.
“I’m a team commander of 21 fellow volunteers [all from America], but in terms of field response, I’ll just be another firefighter,” he related – albeit in a war zone. “We’ll all have flak jackets and Kevlar helmets on.”
It’s that team spirit that has kept him involved.
“I know many of the people who are here, so it’s very personal to me,” Schulte affirmed.
“Everyone I serve with is very experienced and seasoned in emergency response.”
He also wants to demonstrate the same kind of compassion and courage he’s witnessed locally with Hatzolah, the various Jewish first-response agencies which serve Sullivan County and much of downstate New York.
“I think this is the least I can do, when you look at all Hatzolah does for us,” he remarked.
But go ahead and ask him why he’s doing this. You’ll find his reply is filled with firm conviction.
“Anyone that saw what happened the day Israel was attacked can answer that for themselves.”
“We’re incredibly proud of Commissioner Schulte for undertaking this very dangerous mission,” noted Sullivan County Manager Joshua Potosek. “All of Sullivan County applauds his dedication to protecting and saving lives, and we pray for his safe return and that of his teammates. We also pray for that ever-elusive peace in the Middle East, and our thoughts go to all the innocent families caught in the crossfire of this conflict.”