The smell of smoke still hangs in the air of the Carmel Forest, as Israelis look with horror at the ugly black scar that the raging fires of the past five days have left on its beautiful green northern landscape.
The fires extinguished, and the crisis in the past, it is now time to mourn those who were lost in the tragedy. Thousands turned out on Monday for the funeral of a senior and respected member of the Israeli police force, Deputy Commander Ahuva Tomer. As Haaretz reported:
Deputy Commander Tomer is considered to be one of the best-known and highest-ranking officers in the northern region. She made history in 1997 when she was appointed police commander in Nahariya, and again in 2009 when she was appointed commander of the Haifa station, the largest in Israel. Tomer is highly respected by her fellow officers and is known for maintaining good relations with the media. Officers that have worked with her describe her as dedicated and professional, and that although she advanced the case of women in the police force, she never used her own status as a woman as political leverage.
Tomer was critically injured on the first day of the fire, caught in her car racing to the scene of the flames, behind the ill-fated bus of 40 prison guards. Against all odds, suffering from burns on over 90 percent of her body, she hung on to life for four days – the duration of the fire. It seemed fitting that she only passed away after the fire had been subdued, as if she could finally put down her mantle of responsibility and rest.
A pioneer in a male bastion of power, Tomer’s Haifa headquarters was the only police station where both the police chief and the second-in-command were women. Her deputy, Etti Meyerson, eulogized her yesterday, as did a long line of senior police officials and politicians, including President Shimon Peres, who said:
[S]he had an extraordinary personality, a rare combination of a mother and a commander. When her vehicle touched the flames she looked from the outside upon us. This was a moment that none of us will forget, the moment before her death, the height of her valor.