Hundreds of people attended the funeral of an Israeli father and his five children on Tuesday who were killed in a fire that engulfed their Rehovot apartment on Monday night. Guy Shaer, 38, and his five children -- Eliav, 11, Eviatar, 8, Amitai, 7, Shira, 3, and Itamar, 1 -- were buried in the city’s Marmorak cemetery. The sole remaining member of the family, mother Avivit Shaer, was so overcome with grief that she was unable to attend the funeral.
Police and fire rescue investigators believe the blaze, which apparently began in the family’s apartment at 10 p.m. on Monday, was caused by an overheated electrical charger, which was found near an electric socket by the parents’ bedside.
The five children died in their beds as they were engulfed in smoke and flames. Their father was killed when he burst into the apartment in a heroic but failed attempt to rescue them.
On Tuesday, the Israeli emergency and disaster relief organization ZAKA, along with police and fire rescue personnel, removed charred beds and other items from the family’s home, which was largely destroyed.
At the entrance to the apartment building, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger eulogized the victims. “All of Israel is crying. How can we explain such a tragedy? Lord of the world, children have died this week in Toulouse and Rehovot. How can we understand the thoughts of the Holy One, blessed be He? A mother is left alone, sacrificing her entire family to God,” he said.
“Almighty God, we’ve had enough. Enough tragedies. Avivit, you and your husband, Guy, raised a wonderful family. I have heard a great deal of praise for Guy, who was liked by all and devoted to raising his children. You were like a menorah with seven candle-holders. Six of the candles were extinguished and yours was left alone. Everyone blesses you and hopes you will be able to rebuild your menorah once again.”
Rehovot Mayor Rahamim Malul also spoke to the bereaved mother. “The lives of Guy and his sinless children were snuffed out,” he said. “The life of a father who threw himself fearlessly into the fire to save his children was cut off. He died a hero. Dear Avivit, you have lost your entire world tonight and we have no words to comfort you. This night, God came down to his garden and collected five delicate souls and one larger tree, souls that were collected in the prime of their lives.”
Yissachar Mualem, a relative of the family, said that the apartment on Najara Street was temporary and that the family had intended to move to a home they were building in the town.
With tears in his eyes, Avivit’s uncle, David Akwa, said, “What can we say to Avivit? This was a tragedy, a modern version of the story of Job.”
“We can’t find the words, because we simply don’t know what to say,” said Moshe Mualem, Avivit’s brother-in-law. This is a tragedy for Avivit and the entire family. I have personally lost a wonderful brother-in-law, a person who was like a brother to me, as well as wonderful nephews, each one of them. We have lost flowers and their pious father. I don’t know how she will get through this. I hope God gives her strength.”
Avivit Shaer required support throughout the day on Tuesday. Social workers stayed with her, as did relatives, who said her emotional condition was extremely fragile.
Rehovot Chief Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Kook also did not leave Avivit Shaer’s side all day. “She is hurting and said she no longer has a husband and children,” he said. “She said she no longer has anything in the world to live for. There is no way to comfort her.”
The funeral-goers were overcome with grief . Avivit Shaer’s elderly father sat in his wheelchair and cried out, “How did you all leave me like this?” He had just completed seven days of mourning for his son, Avivit Shaer’s brother, who died after a long battle with cancer, and was now forced to face the deaths of his son-in-law and grandchildren as well.
One of Avivit’s brothers, wearing an Israel Defense Forces uniform, helped carry a body on a stretcher to the gravesite. When the rabbi announced the names of the deceased, the brother began to cry and stared in astonishment at the bodies of his nephews.
Mothers who attended the funeral hugged their children as the bodies were buried one after another.
Meir Hajaj, a substitute science teacher who taught the Shaer children and volunteers in the city’s rescue services, said, “It’s impossible to express the feeling that came over me when I arrived at the scene and saw the bodies. These were students whom I knew. I generally arrive at rescue scenes, do what I can, and leave. The pain within me has not subsided. They were wonderful children, always smiling. Now I am preoccupied by the thought of what else I could have done for them.”