West Bank fire survivor: ‘I’m grateful everyone is alive’

“It hasn’t begun to sink in that everything is gone. I am still in that space where I am grateful that everyone is alive and no one was hurt,” she said.

Fires wreck havoc across Israel (photo credit: REUTERS)
Fires wreck havoc across Israel
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Just when the Bratt family thought their home was safe, it burned to the ground.
On Thursday night, Odelya Bratt found herself with only the clothes on her back, but thankful that her six children and her husband were safe.
“It hasn’t begun to sink in that everything is gone. I am still in that space where I am grateful that everyone is alive and no one was hurt,” she said.
On Wednesday night, she and her husband, Ohad, had left their home in the Talmon settlement in the Binyamin region of the West Bank to go to a bat mitzva in Petah Tikva, about 40 minutes away.
Soon after they arrived, their oldest daughter, 20, who was caring for their three youngest children, ages six, 10 and 13, called them to say that a fire had broken out near the community of some 3,700 people.
Two of their other children were away from home.
“Do you want us to come back?” she asked her daughter.
“No,” her daughter replied.
But it was hard to sit and focus on the party, with thoughts that her children could be in danger. So within 10 minutes, she and Ohad left for home.
Everything seemed fine. Her family walked outside a bit to look at the fire. Her youngest daughter, Hallel, six even went to sleep.
Her mother heard of the blaze near Talmon and called her.
“I know I sound hysterical, but maybe pack a bag with your most important items,” she suggested to Odelya.
Then the wind changed. The fire was creeping closer to their street and they were asked to evacuate at around 11 p.m.
Family members put together a bag with photo albums, tefillin and some clothing, and went to a friend’s house.
Around 1 a.m., when the friends had prepared places for them to sleep, they were told it was safe to return home.
In the morning, they overslept.
Her husband and two of her children left while two remained home.
Odelya decided that it was safe to head to her job as a drama teacher. But just 15 minutes later, her son called to say that the fire had come close to their home again and that the air was filled with smoke.
As she turned the car around and drove home, her son called again to say that fire-fighters had evacuated them. This time flames engulfed the home she and her husband had built 20 years ago and it was gone.
Luckily, she said, a few of their bags from the previous scare had been left near the door and the fire-fighters removed them from the house.
The Bratt family was one of two families in Talmon whose home burned to the ground.
What has amazed her since then, Odelya said, is the way the community had rallied around them. A neighbor invited them for the night and her phone had not stopped ringing and messages have been pouring in.
“Here as we are talking, someone just sent me a message saying, ‘I want to give you clothing.’ We have nothing, not even pajamas,” she said. On top of that, they had received offers of food and dozens of invitations for Shabbat.
“It warms our heart the way the community has embraced us,” Odelya said.