Tirat Hacarmel flames 311.
(photo credit: Yael Ayalon)
Tirat Carmel resident and Montreal native Yael Ayalon and her fiancé Haim Furman
managed to return to their home on Sunday, where they discovered to their relief
that, for the most part, it had been spared the worst of the forest
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“The city was kind of a ghost town, very quiet, with very few
people around,” Ayalon said Sunday night. “But they’re starting to come back and
things look the same as before, except that it smells like smoke and our
favorite pub burned down.”
On Thursday, the two were among the 17,000
Israelis evacuated by police and rescue services, which were taking no chances
as the flames closed in.
“On Thursday night we saw the flames on the hill
right in front of our house,” Ayalon said. “We heard the police on a loudspeaker
ordering us to evacuate, so we fled at a moment’s notice, not even grabbing
pictures or our passports, just some clothes.”
She and Furman made their
way in the smoky night to his mother’s house in Karmiel. His four-year-old son
was evacuated with the boy’s mother to Haifa, and was not able to see his father
over a very long weekend.
“He was brave though, but apparently he
couldn’t understand why he couldn’t just go home,” Ayalon said.
out my front window and I can see these two beautiful green mountains that are
now completely black,” she added, safely back home. She was also able to see the
emergency planes “scooping up sea water to take to put out the flames” in the
fire’s final hours.
The fates were less kind to residents of the artists
village of Ein Hod, where the wildfire wreaked havoc over the
Artist and resident Lea Ben-Arye said the fire completely
destroyed 10 houses and a gallery in the village, as well as a secondhand
bookstore with over 150,000 books that went up like kindling.
people lost their studios, as well as the art they created,” added Ben-Arye, who
designs fabrics and jewelry and holds workshops for visitors. Her husband, Dan
Ben- Arye, is a sculptor. They were among the fortunate ones at Ein Hod, their
home and studio being left untouched by the disaster.
described the cruel twist of fate suffered by resident Ziva Keiner, a painter
whose husband had died only three days before the fire. On Friday, Keiner was
forced to flee the shiva at her home as the blaze closed in. Her studio was
spared, but her house was destroyed.
Shaul Sernoff, who oversees the
village’s firefighting efforts, stayed behind and worked hard to help others
protect their homes and evacuate safely. His own home, however, was
The flames also showed little mercy for sculptor Valentina
Brusilovskaya, whose house and studio were destroyed. Only her sculptures
“We had another fire here 11 years ago and we used much of this
experience to battle the flames at the beginning,” she said. “Back then, some
people weren’t home and their houses were lost. So this time, people refused to
leave until the fires got too close.”
Many of the residents evacuated by
police made their way to nearby Kibbutz Nahsholim, where they were put up in
holiday cabins and kibbutz housing.
Ben-Arye said that as the ash settled
Thursday, there was cause for optimism.
“The middle of the village was
not damaged and the downtown remains intact,” she said. “People should know that
they are still more than welcome to visit and we would love to have them.”