I have taken the liberty of re-posting in full, with minimum editing, this tribute to Ahuva Tomer, the Haifa Police chief who was killed in last week’s Carmel Forest Fire.
"’It looks like it will last a long time’".
“These were the last public words spoken by Haifa Police Chief Assistant Commander Ahuva Tomer to Israel TV Channel Ten reporter Eli Levy, apparently the last one to speak with her in person (aside from deceased Police Commander Itzik Melina, who was with her in the ill fated car).
“Four days after suffering burns over 90 per cent of her body when she rushed to save lives of prison wardens in a burning bus, Ahuva Tomer died last Monday morning at the city’s Rambam Medical Centre and was buried at the Haifa Military Cemetery in the afternoon. Tomer was caught by the flames after she insisted on following the ill-fated bus carrying police cadets into the fire so she could help in saving lives.
“After four days of fire raging through the North, light rain finally fell on Monday, as Tomer’s comrades, family and friends wept at her graveside.
“During the funeral, Police Commissioner David Cohen, who posthumously promoted Tomer to Lieutenant-Commander, said she had ‘waited to ensure the fires were out before leaving us’. Top government officials attended the funeral held at the military cemetery in Haifa, including Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Cohen. ‘You, Ahuva, our solid rock, only the forces of nature could match you,’ Cohen said.’Your internal spark died down in the flames that left us all grief-stricken’.
Earlier, President Shimon Peres said after Tomer's death that ‘she 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 valour … that fire annihilated so much, and with Ahuva ... it has now taken the best of the best’.
“Those who knew her well say that throughout her police service, Tomer’s personal warmth and self-effacing humour, coupled with her professionalism and absolute dedication to the personal security of Haifa’s residents, made her one of the most esteemed and popular police commanders in Israeli history. Tomer was modest about her ground-breaking achievements, asking to be judged solely as a police officer. Her determination to manage crises from the field rather than the office, as exemplified in the Second Lebanon War, and most recently and tragically, the Carmel Forest fire disaster, has been held up by her commanders and subordinates alike as model leadership conduct.
“Tomer was captured on camera minutes before the tragedy, driving together with Police Commander Itzik Melina towards the blaze, telling reporters that she was on her way to check first-hand what the situation was in the Carmel Forest. Seconds before she sped off in her police car, Tomer expressed concern for mothers and children in nearby Kibbutz Beit Oren, who were being evacuated.
“The Rambam Medical Centre Burns Unit tried desperately to save her over four days. She had been almost clinically dead when evacuated to the Carmel Medical Centre, where emergency room staff revived her "against the odds" and kept her alive and then transferred her to the Rambam BurnUs unit, but survival after being so extensively burned is extremely rare. She was close to death during all her time there.
“Rambam Deputy Director General Dr Yaron Bar-El informed reporters and expressed the hospital’s deep sorrow over Tomer’s passing. He had known her as a police officer who often came to the hospital for various incidents and co-operative events. ‘She was an impressive figure with great abilities and loved by all,’ he said.
Dr Yaron Bar-Lavie, chief of the intensive care unit, said he had treated many police personnel in the past, but was moved by the abundant love and honour that Tomer was being shown by her colleagues.
‘The special circumstances of her injury testify to her courage,’ he said.
“Tomer was born in 1957 in the former Soviet Union, and emigrated to Israel with her family when she was two years old. After completing her military service, she joined the police force in 1982, and during her first year on the force, she was recognised by her commanders as being “an exceptional officer,” according to Northern District Police Head Commander Shimon Koren.
”She soon successfully completed an officers’ training course, and became a supervising officer in the Haifa Traffic Police. Tomer was then promoted to a series of positions, including Operations Officer at Haifa Police Station, and in a similar role for the Northern District. She next served as the head of the Patrol and Intelligence Bureau of Haifa Police, before being promoted to head of Nahariya Police Station, becoming the first female police station head.
“Tomer became Deputy Head of the Haifa Police Station, and then, in October 2008, she became the first woman to command a major urban police station when she was appointed head of Haifa Police. She often downplayed her accomplishments, and soon after her history-making appointment in 2006, she told the Jerusalem Post that she did not see the promotion as exceptional.
“’I have frequently been the first woman to hold a position in almost all of the positions that I have held in the police. I don’t feel like I’m special. I do function in a predominantly male society, but I am an equal among equals and I try to be the best I can. But women need to understand that this is not just a question of equality of opportunity, but also equality of responsibility’.
“And I think these words make a fitting epitaph for such a woman of achievement. She lived as she died ~ a true Hero of Israel!”
With thanks to Pana Nichuirc of Facebook’s “Jews News” fan page.