As the nation prepares to pay homage to its fallen heroes for Remembrance Day on
Monday, and gears up for the Independence Day celebrations thereafter, Gan Yavne
resident Sivan Ganon, whose husband, Maor, died last December in the Carmel
Forest fire disaster, is dreading the national days that come one after the
“It’s not going to be easy, but I have no choice,” said the 28-
year-old widow, whose husband was burned alive when a bus of Israel Prison
Service cadets became trapped by the fire on the Carmel mountainside on December
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“The last few months, from Pessah up until now... have been very, very
hard. It’s so sad to be without him on these days, but we have to deal with it,”
said Ganon, also speaking for her four-year-old daughter Hila.
taken [his absence] very hard, but she’s a tough little girl and she gets a lot
of love from me. We both get a lot of help,” she said.
While she has her
family and close friends in Gan Yavne nearby to ease some of her pain, Ganon is
also one of 27 widows, and one widower, of Prisons Service personnel who now
receive support and assistance from the IDF Widows and Orphans
Although their spouses were not part of the military, the
organization – in accordance with directives from the Defense Ministry –
recognizes anyone who died in service to the country. While there is no official ceremony to commemorate this specific group that lost
their lives, the Prisons Service cadets and the police officers will be
remembered at official events on Monday, although the three firefighters who
died will not.
The Yad Labanim (Memorial for the Sons) organization,
which honors the nation’s fallen soldiers, is against honoring the three
firefighters as soldiers who fell in battle at a Remembrance Day ceremony, the
organization’s head wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on
Eli Ben-Shem wrote in the letter that honoring the firefighters
as soldiers fallen in battle would be “wrong, not only from a legal and moral
standpoint, but would also lead to requests from many other groups in service of
the state, including disabled veterans who died because of their handicaps and
Ben-Shem said this would create a situation where those
who died defending the country would not receive the unique respect they
“We are like everyone else,” said Ganon, who also works within
the Prisons Service. “In my opinion it does not matter what uniform he was
wearing – he lost his life for this country.”
Maor and his colleagues
were called in to help in the evacuation of the Damon Prison on December 2.
While on their way to carry out the mission, the cadets’ bus became trapped by
the swiftly moving flames.
The bus driver and three police officers were
“I draw my strength from the belief that Maor was doing what
had been asked of him and what he wanted to do for the country,” Ganon said.
“That makes it easier for me to honor his memory and be proud of him and what he
did that day.
“Even if he had been on vacation, he would have gone there
to help. This is a country founded on the principle of people risking their
lives to save others – and I truly believe that my husband, and the others who
came to help the people in the North, was a hero.”
Ganon said she does
not hold political views on the disaster, but believes such an event could be
prevented in the future.
“I try to look forward for my child and for the
tradition of Maor and his friends. Of course, I do think that the state must
make sure that we have the tools to make sure that another disaster such as this
does not happen again,” she said.
Ganon recalled the moment she found out
that something had gone wrong.
About to pick up her daughter from
kindergarten, Ganon received a call from a friend who told her that one of the
buses taking prison guards to help evacuate the prison had caught
Knowing that her husband had been on his way to the North, she
called him, but he did not answer.
She then returned to her job at the
Prisons Service Human Resources Department, where she knew she would be able to
get some answers.
“When I arrived there I saw lots of people running
around and I realized that something really bad had happened. I realized then
that it was not prisoners [as had first been reported] who had died, but prison
officers who had gone there to evacuate the prison,” she said.
At 4 a.m.,
Ganon received official notification that her husband’s body had been
It was at that point that the IDF Widows and Orphans
Organization entered her life.
“They were at my house from the
beginning,” she said. “They were there when the army representative came to
notify us that Maor had died, and they have been there ever since.”
Shoham, chairwoman of the organization, said the Prisons Service had never dealt
with a tragedy on this scale before, and did not have the resources in place to
help the families of victims.
The organization worked with the army to
notify and begin assisting bereaved families.
Shoham said there was no
question they would step in.
“We have had a few widows from the Prisons
Service in the past, but the minute we heard, we decided to give them a special
service and support,” she said. “The State of Israel decided a long time ago to
recognize the Prisons Service cadets, the police, the military and anyone who
serves this country.”
In a statement on Thursday from the Interior
Ministry (which is responsible for official state ceremonies and national
memorials), Minister Eli Yishai said the exclusion of the three firefighters is
simply a bureaucratic issue that he intends to change in law during the
Knesset’s summer session.
“The three firefighters who died in the Carmel
disaster...gave their lives for the State of Israel,” Yishai said.
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