As most of you may know, last week many wildfires broke out all across Israel, Including the greater Jerusalem area, Zikhron Ya’akov and Haifa.
Just to put in proportions the fire incinerated 41 square km and destroyed 600 apartments.
Luckily as a result of lessons learnt from the 2010 Mount Carmel forest fire, no one was seriously hurt. The largest fire occurred in Haifa, where 527 apartments in 77 buildings were destroyed completely, leaving 1,600 people homeless. Causing a damage estimated at 130,500,000 US dollars. 75,000 residents, about a quarter of the city’s population, were evacuated from 11 neighborhoods. Among the evacuated citizens was also Aviv Naftali the Shinshin from 2 years ago. Even though the fire reached his doorstep, it did not cause any damage to his house.
I woke up on Thursday, November 24th, after sleeping-in ‘till around noon on my day off, to find many unanswered calls and text messages asking me about the fire, from many of my friends who live outside of Haifa.
That was how my day started and how I first heard of the fire. Obviously from then on, my day consisted of worried phone calls and texts, trying to get a grasp on the location and size of the fire, while trying to figure out it’s vicinity to my friends’ homes. Meanwhile I also had to try to convince my parents that the fact that only the surrounding neighborhoods were evacuated, does not mean that they should stay in the house rather than evacuate themselves.
After the fire had been put out I struggled to understand the size of the damage. There is one very special place in Haifa, that is dear to so many people. It is a small spring, located in a ravine right near one of the busiest intersections in the city. Over the last 5 years that spring has basically become a “landmark” for people in Haifa. During the fire that place was burned to the ground, leaving just a sad picture behind. Noga can testify how deeply saddened I was when I saw the pictures of the ruins of that spring. The other time I felt this way was just a few days ago, when my brother described the city after the fire, including some of the natural views me and him grew up seeing.
The damage will last for at least 10 years now, and it will always hurt watching it. Now, it’s just something I have to learn to cope with.
Other than the Mount Carmel forest fire in 2010, this was the largest wildfire in Israel’s history. Also, this one was within the city and the population, which made it extremely hard to handle. Despite the difficulties of it, both physical and emotional, the support and concern of the people from this community were heartwarming, and will help us get through this tragedy.