Correctional Officers Dedication Ceremony

Eight years after the devastating Carmel fires, scholarships were presented to the orphaned children of the prison guards who perished in the disaster. The scholarships were awarded by the Correctional Officers Ride Fund, which was raised by Toronto prison service guards in conjunction with JNF Toronto, Canada.

“There’s something special about the Jewish People,” declared KKL-JNF World Chairman Danny Atar at the start of his speech. “Our Friends in Canada enlisted on behalf of the orphans of the Carmel disaster, in yet another example of the Jewish People’s strength and unity. Actions of this kind reinforce connections and the sense of mutual responsibility between Jews in Israel and the Diaspora, wherever they may be.”

The Mount Carmel fire, which broke out in December 2010, destroyed 25,000 dunam (approx. 6,250 acres) of forest and natural woodland. Forty-four people died in the fire, and 17,000 were evacuated from their homes. “My husband Avraham is with me all the time,” said his widow. “He was a man who kept on giving, both to those close to him and to others.” Addressing JNF Canada representatives directly, she added: “I appreciate your generosity and thank you in my own name, in my daughters’ name and in the name of all the bereaved families.”

Michal Noach, whose late husband Avraham died in the Carmel fire, took part in the ceremony together with her twin daughters Roni and Gili, who were just six years old when they lost their father.

Michal Noach. Photo by: Yoav Devir

Roni adn Gili Noach with Jeff Springer. Photo by: Yoav Devir

During the Mount Carmel fires a bus carrying prison guards dispatched to provide reinforcements for the evacuation of Danun prison ran into a firestorm. The driver and thirty-seven of his passengers, most of whom were cadets on an Israel Prison Service officers’ course, died in the flames. Three firefighters and three police officers who tried to rescue passengers from the burning bus also perished. In his final moments Avraham Noach chose to risk his life in an attempt to save his comrades by breaking down the door of the burning bus in hopes of extricating those inside. For this act he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

Dr. Efrat Arbel of the Israel Prison Service’s welfare department spoke on behalf of the prison service.
“The Carmel blaze is the deadliest fire in the annals of the state. The presentation of scholarships to the families of those who died is an act that will contribute to the future of the State of Israel,” she said.

Dr. Efrat Arbel. Photo by: Yoav Devir

Frumit Cohen with Jeff Springer. Photo by: Yoav Devir

JNF Toronto Executive Director Jeff Springer talked about the motorcycle ride organized by Toronto Prison Service staff in the wake of the Carmel disaster in order to raise donations for the scholarships. “These are prison guards who do not come from a Jewish background and who live so very far away from Israel. Nonetheless, these events stirred in them a profoundly emotional sense of identification with their Israeli colleagues.”

“Hanukkah is a time of miracles, but our prayers were not answered and we were granted no miracle on the day of the Carmel fire,” said Lance Davis, CEO of JNF Canada. “But Hanukkah is also a celebration of heroism, and these bereaved families who have carried on with their lives despite their grief have performed an act of heroism. There is no need to thank us for our contribution: it is we who are grateful for the privilege of standing together with these brave families,” he said.