May 18, 2024
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Jewish National Fund: ‘They Destroy, We Build’

For nearly a week our beloved homeland was engulfed in devastating fires, destroying thousands of acres of forests and forcing hundreds of families to abandon their homes.

Since Tuesday, November 22, over 32,000 acres of forests were burned by fires set by arsonists. Fires threatened homes in Haifa, the surrounding Jerusalem area and other areas throughout the country. In Haifa alone, 700 homes were damaged, 37 were destroyed and 400 are now uninhabitable. Seventy thousand residents were evacuated. Over 569 homes burned down throughout Israel. More than 2,500 men and women were on the front lines fighting more than 630 arson blazes. There were 480 water-tanker flights deployed by neighboring countries to help extinguish fires from above. One hundred thirty seven people suffered fire-related injuries.

“For a week our beloved homeland was engulfed in devastating fires forcing hundreds of families to abandon their homes on the front lines,” JNF-USA CEO Russell F. Robinson remarked. “We are on the ground in Israel every day improving lives, but now we are needed more than ever. To answer the great need, we have launched a special campaign for the intensive reforestation of areas destroyed by fires, as well as critically needed firefighting trucks and equipment.”

As caretaker of the land of Israel, Jewish National Fund is on the ground today and every day helping to build a stronger, healthier and more secure Israel. In cooperation with Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL) and JNF partner organizations, first responders and fire-fighting battalions, JNF is at the front line in the battle to address the immediate needs and those that will arise tomorrow and in the future for the land and people of Israel. It is working with its many partners in Israel, like Nefesh B’Nefesh, Makom, Western Galilee Now, HaShomer HaChadash and Green Horizons, to help those affected by the fires.

Daniel Atar, KKL-JNF Chairman of the Board of Directors commented, “This event has been especially brutal, not only for the many thousands of residents forced to leave their enflamed homes but also because of the destruction it caused to the environment and landscape. For more than a century, KKL-JNF has planted and cared for 250 million trees that have made Israel the green fertile country it is. This fire set us back many years and it will take a lot of time and effort to rebuild and regrow.”

Yoram Levy, national spokesperson for the Israel Firefighters and Rescue Services said that this series of fires were some of the worst the country ever experienced. “What made this incredibly difficult to fight, more so than the Carmel fire in 2010, was the number of blazes that took place simultaneously all across Israel,” he said. “We had every firefighter across the country fighting the fires and witnessing extensive damage to infrastructure, housing and land from the north to the south and east to west. Thankfully, we experienced no casualties among our members and are now returning to normal conditions but now we have to look to the future and order many tons of new equipment to replace what we lost.”

JNF-USA’s fundraising efforts include raising $10 million to purchase firefighting apparatus (550 new trucks needed), equipment and gear; staffing rangers for the Elite Forest Protection Unit; a new watchtower in Helez; fireproof gear; binoculars; high-powered leaf blowers (to contain the fire); night vision goggles; numerous 300l water tanks and hoses; and drones. Additionally, funds are being raised to assist JNF-USA partners including Nefesh B’ Nefesh with temporary housing, repairs, business damage, and supplementary grants; LOTEM-Making Nature Accessible; Gush Etzion, which needs five fire apparatuses; and Green Horizons, an outdoor Israel scout program that engages thousands annually.

They destroy. We build.

For more information or to contribute, please visit www.jnf.org.

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