I wish to take this opportunity to thank all those who played a part in fighting the fire, rehabilitating the Carmel and building this monument, and of course our Druze and Muslim brothers and sisters.
First and foremost and above all else, you, the dear families, have experienced a year of suffering and mourning, days and nights of pain and loss, unbearable grief for your loved ones who were trapped in the fire. The people of Israel saw the tremendous flames and they share your pain. Even so, I will allow myself to say that only one who has experienced the pain of bereavement understands the depth of your torment.
Immediately upon learning of the disaster and in the painful days that followed, the question was asked: how can this be overcome? How can one move forward with one’s life? How does one face this cruel knife, the cutting down of a young life at the beginning of its flowering and entire lifetimes of people at the prime of their lives, people who could have contributed greatly? How do you live with the loss of wonderful young men and women who just began families or who were looking forward to the birth of their children? How do you deal with the death of a wonderful young man of 16, an only child who will never return home?
I know you will never feel complete solace, but partial solace can be found. You can find it in the legacy of the good example and heroism the fallen have left behind; in the spirit of volunteerism and tremendous dedication they demonstrated in the face of the fire when they set out to save lives; in the fact that the ranks of volunteer firefighters, police volunteers and Prison Service volunteers have swelled in the past year.
Solace can also be found in the fact that all the people of Israel recognize this legacy, and that the place where your beloved family members, 44 of our beloved fellow citizens died, has become a site of pilgrimage. People come here to salute your loved ones; they come from all over Israel; they come from abroad; and many more will come. Even when this mountain becomes green again, the memory of your loved ones will be preserved here forever. This monument will serve as an eternal testament to their heroism.
Dear families, I would like to tell you one more thing. I believe that, in time, you will find solace in life itself. Life is a powerful river that sweeps us forward, and we find ways to live with bereavement. When we were flying here, we flew over the mountain, and I saw that among the carbonized and blackened trees, new growth appeared, green underbrush, new trees. Since the disaster, nine babies were born to your loved ones who died, and I am amazed by the strength of the mothers’ spirits and those of all the families in raising the children. I know they will continue their parent’s legacy.
Since the great disaster, we have done everything we can so that we can better fight massive fires. One year ago, firefighting planes from over a dozen countries circled above this mountain; today a domestic firefighting squadron flies in the skies of Israel to extinguish the blackness, and it has. It extinguished an enormous fire in the Jerusalem forest that reached the outskirts of Yad Vashem. The squadron stopped the fire that threatened to ignite the large fuel reservoir at the gates of the capital, thereby preventing a terrible disaster.
Over the last year, it helped extinguish more than 150 fires across the country, and it was joined on these missions by dedicated firefighters, police officers and volunteers who worked courageously, in the same spirit embodied by your loved ones. They were helped by those same steps, aids, changes and corrections that the Minister of Public Safety outlined.
I would like to tell you on this day, dear families, from the bottom of my heart – the destructive fire can be extinguished, but the fire, the flame that your loved ones ignited in the hearts of the people can never be extinguished. It will live on in our memories forever.