The heartbreaking story of the Ohana family, who lost two small children in a fire on erev Shabbos in their home in Netanya was revealed in Israeli media reports on Sunday. The family was already struggling before the fire – living in dire poverty in a rundown home full of safety hazards. As YWN reported earlier, 5-year-old Rafel Ohana z”l and his 3-year-old brother Eliezer z”l perished in a Friday afternoon fire that broke out in an apartment in Sharabi Street in Netanya.
A Channel 12 News report quoted the firemen as saying that the tragedy occurred due to an electrical malfunction combined with the rundown condition of the house, including the children’s bedroom with no window and a tin roof.
The father of the family, Ophir, told Channel 12 that he suffers from 75% disability and that he has been begging the Amidar public housing company for an apartment for years but never received one although he is entitled to one due to his disability.
The family’s home was completely destroyed in the fire. Currently, while they’re sitting shiva, the family is being hosted by relatives but they have no home to return to at the end of the shiva.
Channel 13 News published a heartbreaking conversation with the mother Tzipi, who cried bitterly over her children, saying that they lived in the ramshackle home out of lack of choice. Tzipi, who managed to save her other four children from the fire cried: “I want my children. I don’t want anything else, nothing.”
Orit, the children’s aunt, said that the children didn’t even have beds and the parents requested beds for the children from public assistance. It wasn’t clear from the aunt’s statements whether the family ultimately received the beds or not.
In the wake of the heartbreaking story, hundreds of Israelis donated money and household items to the family. One generous donation came from Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, who donated NIS 25,000 ($7,220) to the family, half of the money he recently received from a settlement with the Israeli newspaper Yisrael Hayom.
Gantz filed a libel suit for NIS 1 million (to be donated to the charities of his choice) against the newspaper a year and a half ago for writing false stories and lies about him. Yisrael Hayom and Gantz agreed to settle the case outside of court and Israeli news outlets reported on Sunday that the newspaper is donating NIS 50,000 to charity as part of the settlement.
Gantz chose to donate half of the money to the Ohana family and the other half to the B’Yachad organization which assists new immigrants from Ethiopia.
The Housing Ministry’s public housing department responded to Channel 13: “The family received a message a few days ago that they received approval for rental assistance. At the same time, the family filed a request for public housing, which is currently under examination.”
“I’m very pained about the horrible tragedy but I reject any attempt to connect the fire, which was caused by an electrical malfunction, to the ministry.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)