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Massive Wildfire Threatens Haifa in Northern Israel

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A massive brush fire is blazing across northern Israel in the Carmel Mountains above Haifa. So far at least 40 have perished in the fire, along with much property.

The fire appears to be traveling unabated northeast toward the city of Haifa. Areas on the outskirts of the city are being evacuated, while others are being warned to stay indoors and seal windows as smoke encroaches. As of now, more than 12,000 have been evacuated from the region; Carmel hospital has also been evacuated.

Haifa is a seaside city, one of Israel’s most cosmopolitan. It is an area where Jewish and Arab residents of Israel have lived and worked side by side for decades. It is also the home of the Baha’i Temple and its magnificent gardens overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

The wildfire, described by some officials as a firestorm, began in the forested Carmel mountains near the Druze village of Osafia, in one of the most beautiful mountain areas of the country, often called “Little Switzerland.” The fires are being fueled by heavy winds and dry tinder; rain has barely fallen there for more than eight months.

Israel’s  fire services are overwhelmed by the fire, the likes of which the tiny nation has never before experienced. Several Arab villages and Kibbutz Beit Oren reportedly have been consumed by flames.

The U.S. Forest Service has a 747 enroute with fire-suppression equipment and several Middle Eastern and European nations have already pledged assistance with firefighting equipment, including Egypt, Cypress, Turkey, France, Greece and Spain and Croatia. More countries are also likely to pitch in. 

With some irony, Israeli President Shimon Peres commented, “If there is something we can say, it is that those involved in this difficult event are exhibiting true bravery that symbolizes the holiday of Chanukah.”

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • doug m.

    Hope they can contain this soon and sorry to hear about the loss of life. I may be missing it, but what’s the political angle?

  • doug m.

    Also didn’t see a connection made between the fire and global warming so using this tragedy to promote your views is rather shameless.

  • http://BarbaraBarnett.com barbara barnett

    My reasoning for putting it in politics is that there are often geopolitical implications in the aid effort, etc. whenever it’s a Middle Eastern country involved (esp. Israel). This appears to be a case of setting aside political differences to assist in a time of need.

  • Ruvy

    Thank you for covering this story, Barbara. I was too tired to put up a story on this at BC. The coverage at Arutz Sheva is a bit more detailed. It seems that three fires erupted simultaneously at an illegal garbage dump site in the Carmel area. The fire traveled 1,500 meters in a matter of moments (less than a minute) to cover a vehicle carrying cadets learning to work in the prison service, and they were immolated immediately. This same tongue of fire has severely wounded the Haifa Police Commander, who is in hospital.

    The outbreak of fire simultaneously at three separate places in the same illegal garbage dump has lead to the suspicion of arson. It is common for Arabs to set fires in forests owned by the Jewish National Fund here, so suspicion has gone in that direction. Additionally, there have been reports of dancing and celebrations in Arab villages over this fire. That would lead to the suspicion of arson with attempt commit a terror attack.

    The wind (a strong Hamsin) has made fighting this fire virtually impossible, and it may take until Sunday to subdue it. Spraying water from the Mediterranean to douse the flames, which is what the Greeks are doing, will destroy the forest in the area permanently. Plants generally do not grow in polluted salt water.

    If this is a terror attack, and it may well be, it is original in its execution and skilled in its planning – as it took advantage of a Hamsin – a stong east wind – to do the real work of spreading fatal flames.

    Funerals will be held today and Sunday, and a list of the dead has been released. Cops (prison guards are part of the police here) were killed in this fire. Cops world-wide have a habit of seeking vengeance for their own.

    This story definitely belongs in politics. There will be more hot air out of politicians and generals over this than anything else in the coming weeks.

    [Edited]

  • Ruvy

    I linked this article to Facebook, and at my link of Barbara’s article received this comment:

    “ALMOST ALL the forest fires in Israel since the ’30s were caused by Arabs.
    THEY KNOW, as the Prophets foretold, that the clearest sign of the LANDOWNERS COMING BACK HOME is the re-blossoming of the land.
    The Arabs had turned the land into… a desert with their goats and no planting and agriculture. We Jews have made the desert bloom.
    They HATE the forests: they are the sign of OUR PRESENCE WHICH THEY’D LIKE TO ERASE. So, part of their fight against the Jews is to burn them!”

  • Ruvy

    Apparently the fire is advancing on the city of Haifa and may well cause parts of it to burn. The Dania neighborhood mentioned in this article is one of the wealthier ones in the city.

    On a note closer to home, the “youth” mentioned in this newsbrief is the son of the rabbi of Ma’ale Levona (where I live). He was electrocuted with 13,000 volts when an electrified beam fell on him while he was working on a building in Bet El, a few kilometers away. Those who have an interest in his welfare can pray for Tzuriel ben (son of) N’omi.

  • Jeff

    Israel has always been the first to respond in times of natural disaster. From Turkey to Haiti, Israel is always in the front line of assistance.

  • Ruvy

    Very few have considered that there is a message in this fire – a message from HASHEM. The hand of the terrorists who set this fire was blessed by the Almighty for a reason – where there is punishment, there is sin, where there is sin there is punishment. Read and understand.

    Let us remember that Hanukkah was not about the Greeks – or the new Greeks (who have promised help, but not yet sent it) – Hanukkah was about a civil war where the ancestors of the modern Torah-hating and G-d-hating leaders of Israel called themselves by titles like “high priest” and worshiped pigs in their Temple. They happily followed the Seleucid plan for the extermination of Judaism – just as our régime today happily follows the American plan for the extermination of a Jewish entity in this land.

    Why do you think the Americans and Europeans are being brought down in penury bit by bit as their economies fail, one by one? Do you seriously think it is merely because of the bad judgment of investment bankers and their political poodles? Why did they all have such bad judgment? Think about it, my friends!

  • http://barbarabarnett.com barbara barnett

    Jeff–and it is heartening to know that in Israel’s time of need, countries around the world are responding and sending needed equipment and responders.

  • http://www.transatlantikblog.de/2010/12/03/waldbrand-israel-haifa-kein-iron-dome-hilft/ Mark

    sure there is a political aspect of this tragedy. It is a political descision to have or not to have an efficient fire-fighting force. People in Haifa are upset towards the fact that Israel is not able to help itself, given the fact that it does not have 1 fire-fighting plane.

  • susan

    We’ve been following the news all day and hoping that the international cooperation will get the fire out. We’re gearing up for donation time to the JNF. Hillel at Brooklyn College is planning a fundraising event.

  • Ruvy

    Those of you interested in following this can do so on Facebook at a group called “I Support Israel – 2010 Fire Disaster”.

    In Israel, we are all a bit hardened to the nasty lies the world tells about us, and many of us are shocked at the way the world has opened its hand to help us in our time of need. It is truly humbling.

  • Ruvy

    Having said that and having acknowledged this, there is still the issue of the government trying to cover up arson and terrorism.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena irene athena