Shimon Peres 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
There was a moment of great poignancy at Beit Hanassi on Wednesday evening as
Tzvia Riban, the mother of Elad Riban, the 16-year-old volunteer firefighter who
lost his life in last December’s blaze in the Carmel Forest, came forward to
accept the President’s Prize for Volunteerism in her son’s name.
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came to Beit Hanassi escorted by some of Elad’s classmates from the Reali School
in Haifa, as well as a group of firefighters.
In May of this year, the
IAF inaugurated its firefighting squadron bearing Elad’s name in
Now his bravery has also been officially recognized by the
state, although Peres recognized it when he paid a condolence call on the Ribans
and 42 other families who lost loved ones in the inferno. No families had asked
Peres for anything other than to honor the memories of their dear ones, he
Riban was the only one of 12 individuals and institutions this year
to receive the president’s Prize for Volunteerism. Other volunteers received
Peres devoted a large part of his speech to Riban, describing
the youngster’s selflessness and spontaneous heroism.
When Tzvia Riban
rose from her seat to go up to the stage, many in the audience stood to
While acknowledging that there really is no comfort to ease the
pain of such a trauma, she said that before the tragedy there had been 16
wonderful years with her son. She thanked all those who had embraced her and her
husband since the tragedy, and continue to do so. While Elad was indeed unique,
Riban said she had positive impressions of others of his
“Everyone has an Elad, so everyone is capable of giving,” she
“Until we have a tragedy of this kind, we don’t know what we have
in our midst,” Peres responded.
Honors were given to Leket One Family,
Youth Helping Youth, AKIM, the Root Theater, United Hatzalah and Yedid
Leket calls itself Israel’s national food bank because it
rescues more than 50 million kilograms of agricultural produce that would
otherwise go to waste, and feeds 55,000 people daily. Leket volunteers are
engaged in pickup and delivery all over the country, taking surplus food from
catering establishments and restaurants and distributing it to the
Youth Helping Youth was created to draw attention to the growing
number of children with learning disabilities. The program places students in
small learning groups, with programs tailored to their individual needs. It also
educates teachers to understand learning difficulties.
volunteers assist more than 34,000 children and adults with mental disabilities,
providing professional treatment, shelter and numerous opportunities for clients
to gain a sense of self-worth and independence, helping them join the army, find
jobs and integrate into mainstream society.
The Roots Theater of Beit
She’an was founded by GAMLA, the Ethiopian Community Volunteers Association, on
behalf of Ethiopian women who want to preserve their narrative but find it
difficult to speak Hebrew.
Aged 28-60, the women are most comfortable
when speaking Amharic, and tell their story of life in Ethiopia and their
OneFamily started with a bat mitzva girl, Michal Belzberg, who
forfeited her party to raise money for the victims of the downtown Jerusalem
Sbarro restaurant bombing. She and her family raised over $100,00, but quickly
realized that it was not enough.
And so OneFamily was born, and has
continued to grow. It now provides financial and legal assistance, therapy,
support groups and social outlets to some 2,700 victims of terrorism and their
United Hatzalah of Israel provides emergency medical services
to anyone regardless of religious, ethnic, national or political
Its fully trained and certified paramedics are all
volunteers who provide instant response, usually within less than five minutes
of the incident.