Disaster in Betar Illit:
'My hands trembled as I took the baby's body'

Betar Illit ZAKA volunteer Reuven Reuven describes difficult experience at scene of last night's disaster in which two children were killed.

Reuven Reuven,

Betar fire
Betar fire
Flash 90

It's already five-something in the morning and I can't sleep, my thoughts don't leave me for a moment.

Precisely today, that began with the joy of a new month, and the morning prayer with Hallel. Suddenly the words "the dead will not praise G-d" take on a different meaning. Thoughts run in my head that I was minding my own business at the Rosh Chodesh meal, happy with my family. Suddenly a dramatic message from ZAKA: "Fire in residential building in Betar; suspicion of trapped people."

I felt that something terrible had happened. I immediately went out with the ZAKA ambulance to the address. As I was driving, I heard in the ZAKA communications system reports of units that had reached the scene and still could not enter the house because of the fire.

The fire fighters entered the burning apartment while we rescue and emergency teams treated neighbors who were injured by the smoke. After many long minutes that seemed like an eternity, the initial staff came out and reported to us about the terrible tragedy: "Two bodies of children were found in the children's room."

The ZAKA team in Beitar Ilit was organized and equipped with suitable equipment, and after the police identification team had finished its work, the ZAKA volunteers entered the burned apartment and the children's room with awe. I watch the volunteers all around with tears in their eyes. Complete silence in the room, each volunteer doing the holy work, closed with himself and his thoughts. As a father of small children, I cannot stop the sobbing that bursts from within me, despite years of volunteering at ZAKA.

This case caught me hard. The more I try to detach myself from my thoughts, the more pictures of my children appear before my eyes.

After we finished taking care of the scene, we went to the ZAKA ambulance waiting for us in the street below, far from the mess at the entrance to the building, and one by one we took out the bodies of the children who had been burned.

I turn to all parents please: Pay attention to the children and things that endanger their safety at home; we must make every effort to prevent difficult and unnecessary incidents in our safest space.