The worst of the wildfires began Nov. 22. Jewish National Fund reported that 10,000 acres of forests were destroyed.
Unlike Israel’s 2010 Carmel fire, which affected about two-thirds as much land, no one was killed. But as many as 200 people were injured, and at least 400 homes were destroyed in Haifa alone.
“What made this incredibly difficult to fight, more so than the Carmel fire in 2010, was the number of blazes that took place simultaneously all across Israel,” said Yoram Levy, a spokesman for the Israel Firefighters and Rescue Services. “We had every firefighter across the country fighting the fires and witnessing extensive damage to infrastructure, housing and land from the north to the south and east to west.”
The blazes raised fears of arson as the latest tactic for Palestinian terrorism. At least 35 people have been arrested in connection with the fires — suspected either setting them or inciting others to do so — but as of Tuesday, Nov. 29, police had announced arson charges against only one man.
Residents of Haifa, Zichron Ya’akov, Tal-El, Nataf and five West Bank settlements are eligible for government compensation for losses because arson is believed to be the cause of fires in those areas.
Dry conditions and high winds contributed to the outbreak and spread of fires.
Magen David Adom, Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross, repeatedly deployed its fleet of ambulances. The emergency medical service United Hatzalah mobilized more than 600 volunteers to assist with evacuations and firefighting, with most of its efforts concentrated in the Haifa area.
Search-and-rescue organization ZAKA deployed dozens of volunteers and more than 40 vehicles in Haifa, first helping with evacuations, then backing up firefighters by dousing areas to prevent flare-ups.
With the fires under control by Nov. 29 through the efforts of firefighters, planes and other equipment from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and countries including the United States, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Jordan, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine, attention turned to recovery, including fundraising.
“For a week our beloved homeland was engulfed in devastating fires, forcing hundreds of families to abandon their homes on the front lines,” JNF-USA CEO Russell Robinson said in announcing JNF’s effort to raise $10 million for firefighting equipment, as well as additional relief aid, at www.jnf.org. “We are on the ground in Israel every day improving lives, but now we are needed more than ever. To answer the great need, we have launched a special campaign for the intensive reforestation of areas destroyed by fires, as well as critically needed firefighting trucks and equipment.”
Jewish Federations of North America is collecting donations for a fire relief fund at jfeds.org/IsraelFireFund.
“Our thoughts are with those in Haifa and throughout Israel who have been affected by the fires,” Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta CEO and President Eric Robbins said in a statement. “In keeping with Federation’s mission to care for Jews in need around the world, we are glad to participate in the fund that was created by JFNA and hope that our community in Atlanta sends support to those who need it. Our hearts and prayers continue to go out to all of those who are displaced, and especially to those in our partnership region of Yokneam/Megiddo, who lost not only so many acres of forestry, but more importantly their sense of security.”
It’s not known how the fires affected the Western Galilee Cluster, Sandy Springs’ sister city in Israel.