President honors youth who lost life fighting Carmel Fire

In May of this year, the IAF inaugurated its firefighting squadron bearing Elad’s name in perpetuity.

Shimon Peres 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
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.
Riban came to Beit Hanassi escorted by some of Elad’s classmates from the Reali School in Haifa, as well as a group of firefighters.
RELATED:Prison officers killed in Carmel fire recognized Families of Carmel fire officers get medals of distinction
In May of this year, the IAF inaugurated its firefighting squadron bearing Elad’s name in perpetuity.
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 said.
Riban was the only one of 12 individuals and institutions this year to receive the president’s Prize for Volunteerism. Other volunteers received citations.
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 applaud.
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 generation.
“Everyone has an Elad, so everyone is capable of giving,” she said.
“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 Lehinuch.
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 poor.
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.
AKIM’s 800 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 aliya.
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 families.
United Hatzalah of Israel provides emergency medical services to anyone regardless of religious, ethnic, national or political affiliation.
Its fully trained and certified paramedics are all volunteers who provide instant response, usually within less than five minutes of the incident.