Druze teachers at the Ramat Gan Safari; Baptist teacher Nigel on the left.
December 7, 2010 / 30 Kislev 5771
Hundreds of elementary school children from the Druze village Ussfiya, located high in the Carmel Mountain, arrived Dec 7th, 2010, at the Ramat Gan Safari in order to relax and get their minds off the fire which threatened their lives, homes, and village school. The outing was sponsored by the Jewish Agency and Rabbi Yitzchak Grossman's organization, Migdal Or, based in Migdal HaEmek. The atmosphere was festive at Israel's largest zoological center, far away from the site of the fire which burned on the Carmel.
Nigel, resident of Haifa, a teacher at Ussfiya's elementary school, is a Baptist. She reconstructed the first day of the fire, when she had arrived at the school in the village: "I had shouted at the teachers: 'Why are you sitting here? Ussfiya is burning!'" According to her account, when she had arrived at the village earlier that morning, the flames were at the Western hillside of Ussfiya.
Druze teacher Malak Angam, whose son studies at Kibbutz Beit Oren, was with her students at the Safari. She recalled her experience: "The fire was frightening. Residents of the western part of the village were forced to evacuate due to the danger. The smoke had spread everywhere in the village, but the greatest danger was to the west of the village".
On Saturday the fire was raging, spreading to towns west of Ussfiya, including Ein Hod, Ein Chod, Beit Oren, Tirat Carmel, Nir Etzion, and the Hai-Bar, a tiny nature reserve of extremely rare animals, including the biblical fallow deer.
Student Sharif Khayouf, grade 4
Sharif Khayouf, a fourth grade student at Ussfiya Elementary, described his feelings at the time: "My heart ached watching the fire consume the Carmel, where I was born. During the fire I was at home, but I could do nothing to help. The fire was very close to my home. We live in the center of Ussfiya, but the smoke reached every corner of the village, and leaving the house was dangerous. We could have been evacuated".
He looked around him at the Safari and said: "When I saw the animals here, at the Safari, I was happy to see wildlife and greenery. Everything where I live is ashen and completely black".
According to the Migdal Or and Jewish Agency contacts, who organized the outing, the children were also hosted at Ganei HaTa'arukha park and enjoyed the play "Motek Shel Pestival" at Nokia Arena.
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