“I looked out through my classroom window and saw the mountains covered in smoke and fire!” recalled Shachar Fried, a 12-year-old evacuee from Kibbutz HaChotzrim in northern Israel.
As the blaze erupted and spread over the Carmel Mountain Range, parents rushed to collect their children from school. Shachar and her two younger brothers were taken from school by a family friend and brought to their home, where their mother arrived a few minutes later.
“I was nervous and frightened; burning embers were falling on us from the sky!” said Shachar, remembering the journey home.
Shortly after they returned, a young neighbor who had been left home alone went over to join the family. The windows of her house had been left wide open and she was struggling to breathe through the heavy smoke. “She stayed with us all day until her mother came to collect her so she would not be alone.”
Despite the cloud of smoke that hung in the air, a number of residents went out to the Kibbutz cafeteria to set up for a communal Chanukah party, due to take place that evening. Shachar and her mother were among them. “We found a small radio and turned it on to hear the news, only to find out that our Kibbutz was being evacuated. I was terrified, but knew that I had to be brave … I did not cry.”
Shachar and her mother rushed home to gather belongings and continued to watch the news on television. Shortly after they returned, a police car pulled up outside and they heard a knock at the door. “The police officer told us that we had 10 minutes to leave our home. I quickly packed some clothes, food, and personal belongings, and then went to help my mother with my younger siblings.
We took our dog, Honey, with us in the car, which made the drive very difficult. She barked continuously and was very tense from all the commotion and smoke in the air.”
Shachar and her family traveled to Kibbutz Ma’ayan Tzvi where they were given food and a place to stay. The following day, they moved further south to Yad Chanah where a friend of Shachar’s father hosted them. “It was very nice there, but I missed my home,” said Shachar.
Late Saturday evening, the Fried family received official permission to return to their home in Kibbutz HaChotzrim. “There was still a strong smell of smoke in the air, but thankfully our house wasn’t damaged like others. We were the lucky ones.”
courtesy Jewish Agency for Israel