November in flames
The first fires broke out on 21st November 2016 in the area of Neve Shalom, between Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, and were soon followed by others in the settlement of Zichron Ya’akov just 35 kms from Haifa, in the north. The flames spread to the northern and central parts of Israel and units of Israeli fire-fighters, in co-operation with the army and police endeavoured to stop them. Later it became clear that the first fire was the result of deliberate arson. During the ensuing days of the attempt to control the fire, tens of thousands of endangered residents had to be evacuated from their homes. On 23rd November, Nafa was in flames and soon the authorities had to evacuate Israel’s third biggest settlement, Haifa. About 60,000 residents had to be rescued and public institutions, including prisons, also had to be evacuated. Those who had to abandon their homes were settled in sports arenas and public institutions, while those who were able to stay at home were requested by the Mayor to participate in the fire-fighting efforts in as great numbers as possible. This situation turned out to be more dangerous than the Carmel Mountain fire in 2010 which lasted for three days and killed 44 people. The magnitude of the fire is well illustrated by the closure of motorway 443, which connects Jerusalem with Tel-Aviv, because the fire also reached Modin in the area. Although, most of the fire was under control by Friday, fire-fighters were still at work on Sunday, too. The majority of Haifa residents were able to return to their homes on Friday.