In less than 24 hours, the Carmel ridge has gone from being the greenest area in Israel to being the blackest. KKL-JNF personnel estimate that over 20,000 dunams of natural woodland
and planted forests have gone up in flames. In the huge blaze that began raging yesterday, Thursday, December 2, around noon, 42 people have perished, property has been damaged, and major ecological damage has been done. KKL-JNF estimates that the cost of the damage could be as high as tens of millions of shekels. KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler said that "this is the worst ecological disaster that has ever occurred in Israel," and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared it a "national disaster."
Dr. Omri Boneh, head of KKL-JNF's Northern Region, estimates that between 1.5 and 2 million trees have been destroyed by the fire: "There were 150 to 200 trees in every dunam burned." Boneh tried to estimate the environmental damage and said that "the numbers speak for themselves. The damage is huge. Unfortunately, we are still far from getting the fire under control. There are strong winds, and the whole area is still on fire." Dr. Boneh said that KKL-JNF foresters are continuing to arrive in order to help fight the fire, in addition to the approximately 150 KKL-JNF workers who are already working alongside Israel's firefighting forces, assisted by KKL-JNF's modern fire trucks, some of which were acquired with donations from KKL-JNF offices worldwide and are now playing a major role in KKL-JNF firefighting efforts.
As this is being written, the fire is continuing to spread and is threatening Israel's coastal highway. Firefighting forces in Tirat Hacarmel reported that they were able to control the fire at dawn, but due to the strong winds and parched earth, the flames could reach the outskirts of the city and homes there.
The fire has so far caused major damage to many sites that have been favorite hiking and recreation spots for decades, including the Hai Bar Nature Reserve, the western slopes of the Carmel, Nahal Haik, Nahal Calah, Little Switzerland, Ein Hod, Nir Etzion, Givat Wolfson, the Carmel Forest Hotel and Kibbutz Beit Oren.
KKL-JNF teams are there with Israel’s firemen, the IDF, and international aid that has begun to arrive from Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Spain, France, USA and other countries.
At present, it is estimated that repairing the ecological damage caused by the fire in the region will take many years. KKL-JNF is already making preparations for the day after the fire and for the rehabilitation that will have to be done, with the help of its friends throughout the world. KKL-JNF will be updating Jewish communities and KKL-JNF offices worldwide on the damage and on the unprecedented rehabilitation project.