- Thousands of homes were damaged by fire many of which are now temporarily uninhabitable or were completely destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of residents were forced to evacuate.
- Over the course of five days, multiple schools were evacuated, as were two prisons. Rail lines were cut, many major roads were temporarily closed, and water and electricity supplies were interrupted.
- The worst fires took place in Israel’s third largest city, Haifa, where some 60,000 residents were evacuated, a full quarter of the city’s population. Authorities say that around 2,000 dwellings were damaged, including 527 apartments that are uninhabitable and 37 that were completely destroyed in Haifa alone. More than 1,600 Haifa residents were made homeless.
- In addition to Haifa, major fires also spread in Zichron Ya’akov, Bet Meir, Nataf, Halamish, Dolev, Har Halutz, Ya’ad and Gilon.
- A total of 32,000 acres of natural forest land has also been burned, about 30 percent more than during the 2010 Carmel Forest Fire.
FEDERATION SERVICE PARTNERS RESPOND
The Jewish Agency for Israel
The Jewish Agency has announced that it will provide cash grants of $1000 to families whose home was entirely destroyed and/or has been structurally damaged and cannot be lived in for the foreseeable future. It is estimated that there are around 700 such families. Funding for the grants will be provided by special contributions from Jewish Federations as well as Keren HaYesod communities.
In addition, a number of Agency absorption centers have taken in people evacuated from the fires, including the Amigour housing facility in Kiryat Yam, which opened its doors to provide nursing care for 22 elderly Holocaust survivors who were evacuated from their nursing facilities in Haifa.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has been focused on two of its traditional areas of expertise:
- Most Vulnerable Residents - Elderly, people with disabilities, and families at risk typically need more than the standard provisions being provided by the government. JDC is looking to provide targeted support to enable residents to recover from the damages caused by the fires – both physical and emotional – and adjust to their new reality quickly. JDC is currently identifying additional support services to meet the needs as they are assessed, including temporary respite if needed.
- Strengthening Response and Preparedness Systems – In addition to meeting the immediate needs of the residents affected by the fires, JDC is assessing improvements needed to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of Israel's emergency response systems. Possible directions include: enhancing coordination between agencies such as community centers, NGOs, government and municipal authorities; capacity-building; improving service provision, and introducing complementary support services. For example, JDC has activated its "Center for Independent Living Online" so that people with disabilities can receive real-time help 24/7 from professionals to help them regain composure, assess their situation, and solve their problems.
The Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC)
The Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC) is conducting a mapping of trauma needs with smaller municipalities that have been hit by the blazes (all except Haifa and Zichron Ya’akov).
Last week, ITC was called in to provide trauma relief at the Carmel Hospital, evacuation centers, and to provide backup to existing welfare teams in Haifa. The municipality in Haifa has requested further assistance from ITC in providing direct care to some 1800 individuals in the city, 20 emergency welfare teams, and 8 institutions that were evacuated. Similar requests for assistance have come in from Zichron Ya’akov and Halamish.
ITC is also considering adding another emergency call line in Hebrew and Russian which in addition to helping direct people to municipal services being provided, would help identify potential trauma.