On Oct. 23, nearly 11 months after the Great Carmel Fire in northern Israel, B’nai B’rith and the Haifa Fire Department inaugurated the B’nai B’rith Fire Scouts Clubhouse at the central Haifa Fire Station. About 100 people—50 of them fire scouts—attended the opening of the clubhouse, built in memory of 16-year-old fire scout Elad Riven, who was killed in the fire.
“You, represented here today—firefighters, police and Fire Scouts and the Riven family—all lost friends, comrades and loved ones [in the fire]. This tragedy was not lost on the Jewish communities of the Diaspora who suffered along with you and also sought to make its contribution to healing the wounds and rebuilding,” said B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “B’nai B’rith is proud to play its significant role in this process by funding the building of this facility.”
B’nai B’rith provided $80,000 for the clubhouse project from its Israel Emergency Fund which opened in December 2010 to support relief efforts after the nation’s worst fire. The clubhouse includes space for meetings, training and recreation.
Others who attended the inauguration included Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav; Fire and Rescue Commissioner Gen. Shachar Ayalon; Haifa Region Fire Department Chairman Brig. Gen. Rami Dotan; Fire Chief Arie Regev; Elad’s mother Tzvia Riven; and Fire Scouts comrades.
In his remarks, Yahav described Elad as a “real hero” who was extremely dedicated to his community as a fire scout. The mayor noted that the youth who volunteer to assist in positions that also pose danger should not be taken for granted. He said he is “very impressed, moved and touched that B’nai B’rith has joined forces with the people of Haifa to commemorate this wonderful kid who gave his life for the community in an inconceivable tragedy.”
Elad’s mother Tzvia Riven also addressed the attendees, noting that her son’s birthday was the day before the inauguration.
“Elad loved volunteering with the firefighters and providing assistance to those who help others. Elad did not waste time, and when he went for his shift he took books along so that he could study during free time, and the results showed in his excellent grades at school,” she said. “Therefore it is important that with the inauguration of the clubhouse, the scouts will have a place to study, rest and unwind.”
Shortly after Riven’s tragic death, B’nai B’rith World Center director Alan Schneider, who had been charged with implementing aid projects following the fire, learned that Haifa Region Fire Scouts officer Captain Avi Cohen had long wanted a clubhouse for the fire scouts in Haifa. B’nai B’rith’s World Center and the Haifa Region Fire Department cooperated for a year to see this project to fruition.
“We hope this clubhouse will serve both to remember those who died in the fire and to provide a center for Fire Scouts to convene and continue their important work protecting northern Israel,” Mariaschin said before the event. “B’nai B’rith’s assistance to Israel dates back to 1865 when we provided vital support to the victims of a cholera epidemic. We will continue to provide whatever disaster relief is needed to our brothers and sisters in the Jewish state.”
The clubhouse is the second Israel Emergency Fund-sponsored post-fire project to be completed. Soon after the Carmel Fire, when disruption of cellular service made relief efforts difficult, B’nai B’rith supported the purchase of satellite phone kits and contracts to the 10 civilian search and rescue teams operating under F.I.R.S.T. (Fast Israel Rescue and Search Teams). These phone kits, at a total cost of $25,000, guarantee emergency communication. F.I.R.S.T., which along with B’nai B’rith is a founding member of IsraAID-The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, has been a major partner in emergency relief efforts around the world.
Additional projects in cooperation with the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority are in the works. Funding for these projects came from donations all over the world, including major contributions from B’nai B’rith Europe.
These ventures follow extensive assistance from the Israel Emergency Fund and B’nai B’rith World Center surrounding the 2006 Second Lebanon War when Hezbollah attacks crippled the lives of many Northern Israel residents. B’nai B’rith worked with six municipalities across northern Israel to provide $200,000 in aid which provided children’s play areas, computers, electronic equipment, air conditioning units and other amenities for families in shelters. It also funded the Sifrut for Soldiers project that provided Hebrew-language best-selling books to Israel Defense Force combat soldiers. Additionally, it funded the establishment of an advanced Command and Control Center for the Kiryat Shmona Municipality. Elbit Systems designed the system at a cost of $100,000.