“I heard the desperate shouts of the mother and the noise of fire engines in the distance,” said a neighbor. “I went out and tried to get inside but it was impossible. The mother was crying out, ‘Save them, save them,’ but at this stage nothing could be done.”
“At about ten-o-clock we received a report of a burning apartment with people trapped inside,” Itzik Ben-Aharon, a Magen David Edom paramedic said afterwards. “When we arrived, we saw a woman shouting that her children were inside the apartment. We called in ambulances and intensive care personnel… The woman had alerted the rescue services. When we arrived, we took her away in one of the ambulances. She was lightly injured and was administered oxygen. After the firemen removed the victims we tried to resuscitate them but were forced to establish their death.”
The first firefighter to reach the location said “the apartment was like a burning torch. It was impossible to see anything; everything was covered smoke.”
Avivit, who only got up a few days ago from her sitting shivah for her brother, is a teacher at one of the local religious schools. Her children were students in the town’s Torah educational institutions.
On Tuesday morning, Rav Simcha Kook, the rov of Rechovot, spoke of his efforts to comfort the bereaved mother.
“This morning I spoke to the mother, Avivit Shaer, the wife of Rav Guy and the mother of the five children,” he said. “She cried out to me, ‘I am left alone. The whole family has perished. I have lost a husband; I have lost all my children.’ I tried to comfort and encourage her. She said that only continuing her work teaching Jewish children might give her strength to go on and recover. Her great love for her students and her will to give and nurture, are what will help her during these difficult times. This is an inconceivable tragedy, a terrible tragedy; there are simply no words to describe it.
“I told the mother, Avivit, that the Torah in Parshas Sh’mini writes how the Jewish people were all waiting for the great, elevated moment of dedicating the Mishkon when terrible tragedy struck. The sons of Aharon Hakohen perished in fire. The Torah says, Aharon kept silent. He said nothing. Afterward it says, And all the house of Yisroel shall weep over the conflagration Hashem burnt. This terrible tragedy too was not only yours but of the whole Jewish people. Only Hashem can give you strength.”
Chinuch Atzmai teachers asked Rav Kook how to speak about the fire to the youngsters in their charge.
“I told them to emphasize that the soul is never destroyed but passes from this world to the next, from a temporal time to a time that lasts forever. The Gemara says that when children who had no chance to learn the whole Torah come to Him, He sits with them and teaches them Torah. Right now, Hashem is taking care of these youngsters and teaching them Torah in heaven.”
“We must get a chizuk from this tragedy,” he said. “The holy Ohr Hachaim writes that unnatural sufferings like these that happen all at once bring the final geulah closer. We must all do complete teshuvah. A family wiped out in a second is simply inconceivable.”
“I am deeply shocked, like every other Israeli citizen,” said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when he heard of the tragedy. “We all understand the pain the mother is undergoing. We will do all we can to help the family.”
A TEARFUL LEVAYAH
A fire official said the fire was probably caused by an electrical short circuit and that the apartment was very small and crowded with inflammable materials. He added that firemen were so shocked by the experience they will be undergoing psychiatric therapy. The Shaer family was staying in Rechovot temporarily due to renovations of their home in Beer Yaakov.
Hundreds of people, including Knesset members and other officials, attended the tearful funeral on Tuesday afternoon.
“We have nothing to say to her,” said Moshe Moelem, a family member. “She speaks more with looks than with words. We lost beautiful flowers and a pure father. I don’t know how she will get through this but we are believers, the sons of believers and I hope that Hakadosh Baruch Hu will help her.”
Yehi zichrom boruch.