Tirat Carmel residents find they've been spared the worst

"But the beautiful green mountains I could see from my window are now black," says Montreal native Yael Ayalon.

Tirat Hacarmel flames 311 (photo credit: Yael Ayalon)
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 fire.
“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.”
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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.
“I look 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 weekend.
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.
“Many 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.
Lea Ben-Arye 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 burned.
The flames also showed little mercy for sculptor Valentina Brusilovskaya, whose house and studio were destroyed. Only her sculptures survived.
“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.”