Three boys return to burned home on Beit Oren

Much of the kibbutz appeared to have been spared by the flames – save for the southern area, which was scorched and covered in soot and ash.

December 5, 2010 03:23
3 minute read.
Burnt out car at Kibbutz Beit Oren

Burnt out car Beit Oren 311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

Yaniv, Gil, and Idan hadn’t seen their homes on Kibbutz Beit Oren since Thursday, when they fled at a moment’s notice as the flames of the Carmel fire closed in on them.

Hoping for the best, they didn’t bother grabbing anything to take with them.

“We thought we’d be back the next day; we didn’t think we’d come back to this,” said Idan, 27, standing outside the hollowed shell of his boyhood home in the kibbutz’s scorched southern part on Friday. Soldiers and police had barricaded the only entrances to the road leading to the kibbutz, but the three friends begged and pleaded to be allowed in to see their homes, hoping to find something to take with them.

They were among 17,000 people evacuated from the area affected by the brushfires.

Wearing the same clothes as the night before, Idan and his friends climbed the stairs into Idan’s building, using their cell phones as torches in the pitchblack night.

Perched on a hilltop above Mount Carmel, the houses afforded a sweeping view of the neighboring hillsides and the constellation of embers and small fires twinkling in the night sky. In the distance, convoys of fire trucks could be seen making their way up and down the hills beset by flames. All around, the air was choked with the stench of ash and smoldering pine.

Much of the kibbutz appeared to have been spared by the flames – save for the southern area, which was scorched and covered in soot and ash.

“This was my room, all my clothes were right here, my playstation over there,” Idan added, pointing at a mound of soot and ash in the corner.

The concrete ceiling of the two-story building had collapsed, warped and twisted by the flames that tore through Thursday.

“We shouldn’t be in here, man, it’s an 80-year-old building, it could fall any second,” Gil said, and the three scrambled down the stairs into the night.

On the street outside, still covered in ash, Yaniv, 25, stood outside the burned shell of his Subaru, abandoned to the flames.

“I really loved this car,” Yaniv said, and kicked the crumpled driver’s-side door.“

“On Thursday, we saw the flames coming toward the kibbutz, but we didn’t leave right away. We ran over to the BSide, the kibbutz pub, to see if anyone was over there and saw a few of our friends on the rooftop with a hose trying to put out the flames on the ground,” Yaniv said, adding that from the rooftop they could hear the screams for help coming from the Prisons Service officers trapped in a burning bus on the way to evacuate detainees at Damon prison.

No help arrived in time, and 40 officers burned to death in the flames.

“Pretty soon we saw that the flames were getting closer and we ran,” Yaniv added describing how he and Gil dashed through the forest from the kibbutz to Moshav Megadim, near Atlit. Idan had managed to flee earlier before the road was closed off.

“The roads were blocked by the fire, so we fled through the woods. We grew up in these woods, we know the way down. So we just ran, the whole time looking over our shoulders for the fire,” Yaniv said.

In the scramble they lost track of Bruno, a black-andwhite mutt Yaniv had found by the side of the road a week earlier and adopted. When the three friends pulled into the abandoned kibbutz on Friday, they were tailed by Bruno, who came out of the darkness running alongside their car.

The three friends appeared to be in good spirits, even though they were without a change of clothes and couch-surfing with friends and relatives in Haifa.

They hoped to be able to salvage something from their homes, but so far were out of luck.

“We’ll go check at my parents’ house, it’s up in the northern neighborhood, the fire didn’t really make it there,” Idan said, and the three childhood friends from Kibbutz Beit Oren headed off into the darkness, trailed by Bruno leaving paw-prints in the ash.

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