Helping Israel Deal with its Worst Fire in History
Contact: Jodi Bodner • JNF Director of Communications • 212-879-9305 ext. 221 • firstname.lastname@example.org
December 6, 2010 – New York, NY -- An initial blaze that began near the Druze village of Usfiya and quickly became the worst fire in the history of the State of Israel was finally put under control though extinguishing operations will continue in the coming days to prevent fire from re-erupting.
Losses have been devastating. At least 42 people have died, 25,000 were evacuated, homes were lost and more than 12,500 acres of forests destroyed. JNF foresters estimate over 5 million trees were burned and initial estimates put the total cost of damage to the region at about $75 million.
The extent of the burnt area is comparable in size to 40% of Jerusalem or no less than 7,142 football fields.
Unfortunately, the road to recovery has only just begun. Staying true to its mandate of caring for the needs of the land and people of Israel, Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) Operation Carmel Renewal: From Black to Green will help rebuild and renew the Carmel Forest and purchase much-needed firefighting equipment for Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services.
“This disaster represents a fire of unprecedented proportions for the people of Israel and presents an enormous challenge for Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services,” said Shimon Romach, Israel’s Fire Commissioner. “While we are strongly committed to confronting this with all our country’s available resources, the scope of this incident means our rescue services are in need of support from the international community at this time.”
JNF CEO Russell Robinson is in Israel now to assess the damage and will return in a few days with concrete plans and needs.
“Our response,” he said, “is not one just for today. JNF is here for tomorrow as well, and this campaign is taking into account the short-term and long-term needs of Israel’s most lush region and its most heroic firefighters. They are all a priority to us.”
As became obvious over the past few days, Israel’s firefighting needs include airplanes, ladder trucks, alternative rescue vehicles, compact fire trucks, vests, masks, hoses, extinguishing agent, thermal cameras, and more.
As for forest rehabilitation, Dr. Omri Bonneh, director of KKL-JNF's Northern Region, said: "We learned a lot from the Second Lebanese War in terms of forest rehabilitation. In general, forests rejuvenate after fires. While we plant new trees in some areas for recreation or for other reasons, our basic policy is to rely on natural processes, which may sound easy, but in fact is extremely demanding, labor-intensive and costly. When trees regenerate naturally, they grow very densely. We have to be on top of every square meter of the forest, performing thinning operations and forest maintenance, in order to ensure a healthy forest that can also be used for recreation.
“It is already abundantly clear that it will take a long time to restore the lush green appearance of Mount Carmel,” he continued. “The ecological damage is enormous. Vast tracts of planted forest, natural woodland and carpets of flowers, together with thousands of birds, reptiles and mammals, have been destroyed. It will take decades for the landscape to be rehabilitated. Some of the trees burned were between fifty and a hundred years old.”
To donate, visit www.jnf.org.
Photo credit: Yossi Zamir
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JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.
JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.
JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and United Nations NGO, which continuously earns top ratings from charity overseers.
For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit www.jnf.org.