Israel JERUSALEMResidents began to return home after raging fires swept through Israel yesterday, and they witnessed the aftermath of blazes that destroyed and damaged homes, businesses, houses of study and property, and injured more than 100 people. At least 75,000 residents were evacuated from 12 neighborhoods in the northern coastal city of Haifa, along with thousands more around the nation. Many of the fires were reported to have been set by arsonists.
While some residents have returned home, many have no homes to return to. Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, particularly those serving Haifa and its environs, have set up an emergency-response team to help the evacuated find lodgings with host families in the center of the country and to otherwise assist victims of the fires.
Since most Chabad rabbis are currently in New York for the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries in New York, the efforts are being locally coordinated by Dr. Boaz Ben Shmuel, and Chabad staff members and volunteers who did not travel to the United States before the fires began.
We are in constant contact with our community members, working to help each individual in any way we can, says Rabbi Yehuda Dunin, who directs Chabad Haifa and the Carmel Region, speaking from New York. There are hundreds of people who had to evacuate without even returning home to get basic necessities.
Dunin reports that the most urgent needs at the moment are for foodstuffs and baby gear, such as diapers, cribs and clothing.
Those in need of help, as well as people wishing to donate supplies or cash, are encourage to call 04-811-2770.
Much Is Lost, Including Holy Books, Precious Artworks
As flames approached yeshivah Mevaser Shalom in Haifa, students and teachers rushed to evacuate a nursery school on the first floor of the building. Having saved the children, the students attempted to return for the holy books, but the building was already engulfed in flames.
In the village of Beit Meir, located near the nations capital just off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, hundreds of residents were evacuated from their homes, including 300 people at a guest house. A dozen homes were damaged or destroyed, including the studio of acclaimed artist Yoram Raanan, which went up in flames along with paintings that represented 40 years of work. Raanan and his family are staying with friends outside Beit Meir. Twenty-five firefighting crews worked at the scene and worked through the night to extinguish the flames, which were finally quelled shortly before 5:30 a.m.
Two terrorists were arrested in connection to the arson in Beit Meir.
Elsewhere around Israel, thousands of firefighters used aircraft and more than 100 vehicles to battle the flames, including planes flown in from Russia, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. They also assisted in personal rescues and mass evacuations, and all of the injuries reported so far were said to be from smoke inhalation.
For three days, high winds and dry conditions caused individual brushfires around the country to spread quickly, threatening farms, vast forests and nature preserves on hundreds of thousands of acres in the countrys north.