From ashes to recovery

We will plant, build and deepen our roots─PM Benjamin Netanyahu

Surveying the aftermath of the massive November wildfires, PM Benjamin Netanyahu said, “In the place of every tree that was blackened, another ten green trees will bloom. That is what our predecessors did since the establishment of the Zionist enterprise, and that is what we will do as well: plant, build and deepen our roots.”

Forest fires are all too familiar in Israel. One may remember the 2012 fatal fires on Mount Carmel and many other fire disasters in the recent years. In the November wildfires, arson was the main cause. A total of 122 people were injured. Severe air pollution was reported across the country, and people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation.

Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed, mainly in the Haifa and Jerusalem areas. According to Israeli news, close to 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes and businesses to escape the raging flames.

People suffered great losses. However, the wildlife took the hardest hit. “While some of the foxes and hyenas managed to flee, others were not so lucky. Snakes and turtles did not survive,” said Uri Naveh, head of the Nature and Parks Authority Jerusalem District. Entire nature reserves and forests─many of them had been planted by Israel’s reforestation program─were decimated. Forestation experts in Israel report that it could take as long as 30 years for forests to fully recover from the recent 2,000 wildfires. A few of the arsonists were caught when trying to set fires in apartment buildings and forests. Residents in some Arab neighborhoods and the region’s countries, like Turkey, celebrated while Jewish property was in flames. The spokesperson for Neve Tzuf in Samaria said that the town has suffered a blow, but that they are strong and they will deal with it. All Neve Tzuf residents had to be evacuated after arsonists set the town on fire.

Recovery from fires is well on the way. PM Netanyahu has vowed to fast-track bureaucracy so that homes and businesses can be rebuilt and victims reimbursed. In Israel, like in any country in the world, the building process and permits take time. Meanwhile, families need medical care, temporary housing, clothing, household items, vehicles and replacement of their other burned or damaged belongings.