Fighting the Carmel blaze.
Fighting the Carmel blaze.Israel news photo: Flash 90 (file)

Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin and Internal Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovich have asked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Ceremonies and Symbols, Minister Stas Misezhnikov, to establish the annual memorial ceremony for victims of the Carmel fire as a state ceremony.

In his letter to the prime minister on Monday, Rivlin wrote, “Today the annual memorial ceremony for victims of the Carmel disaster was held. This disaster, in which 44 of our finest sons and daughters were killed on their way to save lives and help fight the flames in the Carmel, was a national trauma. On that terrible day Jews, Arabs and Druze stood together in fighting the fire, and died side by side. The citizens of Israel all share the deep mourning over the deaths.”

Rivlin added, “It would be appropriate to recognize the annual memorial ceremony for victims of the disaster as a state ceremony. I appeal to you, in consultation with Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovich to promote this recognition with all the implications involved.”

Rivlin said that the Knesset “will mark the catastrophe on its agenda each year.”

The memorial ceremony for the 44 police officers and Israel Prisons Service cadets who were killed in the Carmel fire catastrophe one year ago, was held on Monday. Besides Rivlin, the ceremony was attended by Netanyahu and Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

Netanyahu and Yishai's presence was requested by most of the bereaved families. However, some bereaved families announced that they would boycott the ceremony, because those responsible for the tragedy have not had to pay for their misdeeds.

The ceremony was held at a bend of the road that leads to Beit Oren – the bend at which the fire trapped the bus carrying the cadets. A memorial monument for the 44 victims was unveiled during the ceremony.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office was criticized on Monday for the texts read by the ceremony’s host before Netanyahu was called to speak.

Channel 10 reported that during the ceremony the host mentioned Netanyahu’s name several times to indicate his personal contribution to extinguishing the fire. When it came time to invite Netanyahu to speak, the host said, “I am honored to invite the person who was first to understand the magnitude of the event, the one who got together all the factors, in Israel and abroad, to help put out the fire and who has since tirelessly cared for the families who lost their loved ones: The Honorable Prime Minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu.”

An official in the Public Security Ministry, who was among those responsible for the ceremony, later told Channel 10 that a few days ago, after Netanyahu announced his intention to attend the ceremony, the Prime Minister’s Office requested to review the text that would be read by the ceremony’s host. The official said that the text was returned to his office with the words of praise to the prime minister added to it.

The PMO told Channel 10 in response that “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was indeed the first one to understand the magnitude of the event, presided over the rapid extinguishing of fire, initiated the establishment of a monument to the victims and worked to establish the firefighting squadron named after Elad Riven. The Prime Minister is in close contact with the bereaved families.”