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Rehabilitation and Celebration: Haifa Comes Back After Fires

Fire damage in Haifa (Photo: Shai Hartov)

Recently, devastating wildfires threatened Israel - injuring hundreds, displacing tens of thousands, destroying homes, and damaging the land. The Fellowship and our generous supporters were on the frontlines of this tragedy, offering aid to those who needed it most. No place was affected more than Haifa. JNS' Franziska Knupper reports on how the people of this Israeli city are recovering - and rejoicing - after this disaster:

Meir Barzilay was one of the lucky residents of Haifa during Israel’s recent wave of fires.

"I live in a row of six houses," says the homeowner living on Shahar street. "Somehow, the fire magically jumped from house number two directly to number four, sparing us."

Barzilay points to the grey and black hillsides, the burnt trees, the plastic foil that protects his neighbor's house from rain and wind. The roof is gone. It was made out of wood and the fire swept it all away. The wind still carries the smell of ashes. Barzilay's house lies in the district of Romema, the neighborhood of Haifa hit hardest by the fires that had invaded central and northern Israel starting Nov. 22. For eight days, firefighters across Israel battled 90 fires in 1,773 locations, with the largest blazes occurring in Haifa. Eight-hundred of the city's apartments have been rendered uninhabitable, leaving 1,700 people homeless. The damage was so severe that in about 100 cases, demolition of entire buildings will be necessary in Haifa.

"The municipality is doing a great job to help us, though. We are grateful for the rapid support,” Barzilay says, giving Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav a pat on the shoulder. Yahav nods in agreement, adding, "I am very impressed by the efficient rescue and assistance the city was providing. The fire department and military sent a positive message to the citizens, a message of security."

The damage in Haifa’s public areas amounts to half a billion shekels (about $130 million), including damage to the city’s infrastructure and sewage systems. Haifa’s full rehabilitation will take up to 30 years, officials say. Damages to private property have yet to be fully assessed...

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