The 16-year-old, an only child, decided to volunteer and help battle the huge wildfire in the Carmel hills, when he got caught in the flames and lost his life near kibbutz Beit Oren.
"He was my whole life, I shared everything with him", cried his mother, who was the one who drove him to the fire services headquarters on Thursday to join the extinguishing efforts.
Elad celebrated his 16th birthday just last month, in a surprise party thrown by his friends. The balloons and decorations still hang at the Riven home.
"He was strong. He said: 'Don't call the teacher, I'll be fine,'" said Tzvia to her friends. She requested to add that "there are many heroes like him out there. We should talk about them and not just about the dead."
The Facebook page opened in memory of Elad Riben.
Lately Elad complained to his mother about fires breaking out all over the country, not just in Haifa. On Thursday, when the deadly wildfire broke out in the Carmel hills, Elad was in school. He called his mother and asked her to bring him his volunteer uniform.
"He was a straight-A student. About a year ago he joined the firefighters in Haifa as a volunteer. Just like a good kid, when he saw the smoke over Carmel Mountain, he left school and ran to help out," said his mother Tzvia. "He was very close to the burning bus, so he ran to save lives and got caught in the fire. He was a hero - running into the fire instead of running away from it and saving his own life."
She added that Elad was learning to fly a lightweight airplane and dreamed of becoming a pilot.
Hero lost during Hanukkah
Ron Kitri, the principal of the Haifa school Elad was enrolled in, talked about a student with a special character. "He studied here since first grade. An only child, very talented student, volunteered as a firefighter and a tutor."
"I saw him at school on Thursday just like the rest of the students. We didn't talk. But I held an assembly for all of the students and the school advisors, and I also visited the family home," he added.
Meni Rabinovich, the middle school director at the school added: "We lost a true hero during Hanukkah, the festival of courage – one of those heroes Israeli society was founded on, who give us the strength to continue."
"When Elad heard about the wildfire, he called his mother and requested she bring him his volunteer uniform. He quickly put it on and arrived at the scene. He joined a firefighting crew from Afula and went out on a life-saving operation from which he never returned," read the statement issued by the school. "Placed on his desk Saturday morning was his last physics exam: he scored a 95."
Elad's homeroom teacher, Mali Zangut, said he was a sensitive, mature and attentive student, always offering to help others. His close friends said he had "a huge soul" and was loved by all.
Around 2 pm on Thursday was the last time anyone heard from Elad, while he was onsite with the Afula crew. It was the last time he spoke with his mother, who wanted to make sure everything was alright after dropping him off at the fire service headquarters.
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