In the midst of the Chanukah festivities in school, Nadav Bezalel, 11, and Guy Laniado, 10, peered out of their classroom window in disbelief to see the beautiful Carmel landscape being consumed by the raging fire.
“While parents rushed to collect their children from school, those who lived in Kibbutz Beit Oren became anxious as they were told that the blaze had swept through their Kibbutz and that they could not go home,” said Nadav.
“Many of us from other Kibbutzim were taken home by school bus as usual,” Nadav continued. “But when we arrived, we saw that the fire had come so close to the Kibbutz that there was gray ash flying in the air!”
Nadav and Guy rushed home and turned on the news. The gravity of the situation quickly became obvious as the blaze continued to spread throughout the Carmel.
“My younger sister did not understand what was happening. Only once we received notice to evacuate did she become frightened,” said Guy.
Many families went out into the fields to get a better view of the landscape. They saw the entire Carmel Mountain Range ablaze, with damage spreading rapidly through local residential areas.
“The fire looked like lava!” said Guy
As the families packed their belongings, they saw soldiers running from door to door, urging people to evacuate. As they continued to pack food and clothing, a thick cloud of smoke covered the Kibbutz.
Nadav and his family fled to family friends in Zichron Yaakov and then to his grandparents in Jerusalem. Guy’s family stayed the night at Kibbutz Nachsholim.
“I missed my home,” says Guy, “I couldn’t do anything without thinking about the fire.”
After two nights, the families were permitted to return to their homes in Kibbutz HaChotzrim. The smell of smoke still lingered but their homes were unscathed. Planes continued to fly overhead in valiant efforts to extinguish the raging fires.
“It is a very sad situation,” says Nadav. “Our entire view of the Carmel has been scorched. It will take years until the landscape is Green again. I am sure our school will take us to plant trees for Tu B’shvat.”
Since returning to the Kibbutz, the children and youth have been taking part in special activities run by the Jewish Agency. The atmosphere in the Kibbutz is very low,” says Guy. “If I stay outside for more than two minutes, I begin to get scared because I can still smell the smoke. Here in Ma’agen Michael, where the Jewish Agency has organized activities, we can breathe normally and don’t have to think about what is going on outside.”
Nadav’s mother, Iris, showed her immense gratitude towards the Jewish Agency’s response in the north. “The Jewish Agency has organized fantastic activities for the children, enabling them to take their mind off the horrors they have witnessed. As parents, we can only try to help our children overcome their fears; however, involving the children in social gatherings with their friends who have endured the same experience is really helping them to cope. I am sure that these activities can help many more children in the north.”
courtesy The Jewish Agency for Israel