Massive fire in Israel kills 42, prompts Milken student responses

Fire 1

Sophie Golub

News Editor

The sky was temporarily dyed crimson from Thursday, December 2, until Sunday, December 5, when the color finally faded, signaling the end of Israel’s largest natural disaster in its history. For four days, a fire engulfed northern Israel’s Carmel Forest and the hills near Haifa, covering over 10,000 acres of forest with more than four million trees.

As a result, 42 people were killed and 17,000 were forced to evacuate their homes in the surrounding areas.

In the past couple weeks since the fire, Ruthie Rabinovitch ’12 took action against this unsettling event. Recently, the youth choir of the Yemin Orde Youth Village visited Milken to sing with Kol Echad. The fire completely destroyed their village, abandoning around 500, mostly orphaned, children. In an effort to help them gain back what they lost, Rabinovitch collected clothing, bedding, towels, supplies, backpacks, notebooks, and writing utensils. The donations have been shipped to the children’s village.

“Because this was such a sudden disaster, Yemin Orde needed immediate help, which is why it felt good to be able to donate everyday needs to help them right away. I met the kids from Yemin Orde just a few weeks ago, so I had a strong connection to this youth village,” Rabinovitch said. “I felt like it was important for our school to do something about this, and that’s why I’m so excited about the great response from the entire school.”

Fire 2

On January 8 Kol Echad will be hosting a benefit concert to raise money for the cause. Both Kol Echad and other student musicians will perform at the concert, and the money raised will help the village rebuild their facilities. Click here for more information about the One Voice concert.

“We just sang with these kids–kids our age–a week ago,” Ami Fields-Meyer ’12 said. “They’re victims of this wildfires that otherwise seems so distant. This isn’t about a far-off cause, it’s about making a quick and effective difference.”

According to AOLNews, the fire started after a 14-year-old boy dropped a hot coal from his tobacco water pipe on the ground. Without telling anyone, he returned to his school as if nothing happened. The boy is now being interrogated and put on trial.

Of the 42 deaths, 37 Israelis were cadets training to become prison service officers who were evacuating the prison when their bus was swallowed up in flames. In attempting to escape the fire, two police officers and a 16-year old boy were also killed.

Police Chief Ahuva Tomer was driving behind the bus of prison guards, when her car was swallowed up in the same flames as the bus. She was critically injured and died finally on December 6. According to Ynet News, Tomer is one of the highest ranking female officers in the northern region of Israel and is considered a heroine by many Israelis.

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu realized that Israel’s firefighters were unprepared to extinguish the fire by themselves, he called for help from nearby countries. Britain, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and United States sent aid and aircraft to help put out this fire. Even Turkey and Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, with whom Israel currently has strained ties, were willing to send assistance.


Kol Echad One Voice Promo

Many Israelis and non-Israelis have criticized the Israeli government for priding itself on being prepared for any kind of catastrophe when the firefighters were unable to extinguish the fire without external aid. Some have also denounced the government for not adequately training their firefighters.

Since the fire was extinguished last Sunday, many of the displaced Israelis are returning to their homes only to find them burned down. The Israeli government is currently working to recover the nation from the damage.

Article images: