The Carmel Mountain Fire .
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Speaking at an official government memorial service marking one-month since the Carmel fire disaster, President Shimon Peres praised the firefighters and volunteers who fought the blaze, saying it overwhelmed them, "but they didn't run from [the fire], they worked to rescue lives."
The president spoke of visiting the families of the fire's victims, saying that "it was an honor to visit them in their homes." He added, "I could only say one thing to them, to thank them on behalf of the country."
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also spoke at the memorial service, but before completing his first sentence, was interrupted by the families of the victims, including the partner of fallen Haifa Police chief Ahuva Tomer. Stepping back from the stage and surrounded by security guards, the prime minister was heckled by family members of those who died in the fire, demanding accountability.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai was also the target of the shouting, prompting Shas spiritual adviser Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to approach the podium and announce that he and Yishai would be leaving the memorial service in order to honor the families.
After several family members left the premises, the prime minister restarted his speech several minutes later.
Netanyahu told the gathered families, government officials, and ambassadors and dignitaries from countries that aided in putting out the Carmel fire: "We learned that the forest we always knew to be green transformed, in one moment, into something completely burned."
The prime minister, speaking among several interruptions from anguished family members, was called a "liar" several times, in shouts from the audience. He nonetheless thanked the families on behalf of the country and its citizens.
At one point, after saying that Jews and Druze, young and old, veteran citizens and new olim worked together to put out the fire, a man from the audience loudly interrupted, saying that Muslims also helped, to which the prime minister responded, "You're right, I apologize to you, Muslims also helped extinguish the fire."
Netanyahu also stressed during his speech that he promises that in the future putting out fires and dealing with natural disasters will happen as quickly as possible.
Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Danny Rozen, Ahuva Tomer's husband called Yishai's attendance at the ceremony "the height of hypocrisy."
Rozen, who interrupted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech at the ceremony demanding Yishai leave the room, told reporters: "Report after report, we see Eli Yishai being blamed, so it is not right for him to come here, to sit in the front row as a respected guest. I think Yishai coming to this ceremony is a slap in our face. The only thing that interest him is what happens in his 'halacha state'."