December 8, 2010
Out of the ashes
In aftermath of tragedy, Israel begins picking up the pieces
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Thirty-five firefighting airplanes came to Israel. New York sent a 747 loaded with Fire Troll 931, a fire retardant chemical, in a shipment organized by the Fire Department of New York and the office of the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
Israel also rented the American Evergreen Boeing 747 Super Tanker, one of the most advanced firefighting planes in the world, loaded with 80,000 liters of water and fire retardant. It arrived early Dec. 5 and had an immediate effect on helping douse the flames.
The deadliest incident came in the fire’s early hours when a bus carrying about three dozen cadets from the Israeli Prisons Service on their way to evacuate a prison threatened by the blaze became trapped between burning trees. Nearly all those aboard perished, and the bus was left a scorched shell.
Two firefighters who rushed to rescue the guards and a 16-year-old volunteer, Elad Riven, also were killed. All of the bodies were identified, some using DNA technology, by the evening of Dec. 4, and funerals began being held while the blaze was still raging.
“No one sent you, no one called for you, no one but your wonderful and brave conscience,” Israeli President Shimon Peres said during a eulogy at the funeral for Riven on Dec. 5. The “disaster taught us that all of us — Jews, Arabs, Druze and other peoples — share the same fate.”
A day after the blaze was brought under control, the fire’s death toll rose by one with the death of Haifa Police Chief Ahuva Tomer, who was burned over most of her body while trying to assist the prison guard cadets.
Jewish communities in Denver and Winnipeg, Canada, also mourned the death of one of the bus passengers, Rabbi Uriel Malka, 32, who was working as a chaplain in the Israeli Prisons Service.
Malka, a father of five, worked as a Jewish Agency emissary for two years in Denver and then served as principal of the Ohr Hatorah Day School in Winnipeg. Malka had narrowly escaped death during combat in the Second Lebanon War.
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