More than 1,000 wildfires raged through Israel over a scorching hot weekend, destroying 50 homes and burning through almost 2,000 acres of forest land.
The fires, which broke out on Thursday, mainly centered around the Ben Shemen Forest near Ben-Gurion International Airport. Two communities were badly hit – the village of Mevo Modi’im, where 40 out of 50 houses were destroyed, and the nearby Kibbutz Harel, where 10 houses were damaged by the fire.
The operation to put out the fires was concluded on Saturday at the end of a weekend that saw scorching-hot temperatures peak across the country, reaching 110°F in some places.
Some 13,000 firefighters reportedly took part in the effort to extinguish the fires, alongside 300 volunteers. Israeli firefighting planes were aided by similar planes from Egypt, Italy, Greece, Croatia and Cyprus. Overall, 120 sorties were carried out over the weekend.
Police helicopter flying over fires in the Forest areas near Jerusalem. Emergency Units on the ground & firefighters working to take control pic.twitter.com/DufmiB9CB6
— Micky Rosenfeld (@MickyRosenfeld) May 23, 2019
“As of now assistance has come from Greece, Croatia, Italy, Egypt and Cyprus and we very much appreciate it. I would like to thank my friend Egyptian President el-Sisi for sending two helicopters,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday.
The cause of the wildfires is still being investigated, with the high temperatures, electric faults, bonfires from the Jewish festival of Lag B’Omer and arson all being considered.
Thousands of evacuees from towns in the fire’s path, and the families whose homes were destroyed in the fire, were accommodated over the weekend at neighboring communities. Those who lost their possessions received huge donations of food, clothes and other equipment.
Many Israelis took to social media to offer their help and to raise funds for those impacted by the fires.
One wedding, which was meant to take place in Kibbutz Harel on Thursday evening, was quickly relocated to the nearby village of Abu Ghosh, while a bride-and-groom-to-be from Mevo Modi’im whose dress, suit and wedding plans went up in flames have been overwhelmed with offers of dress sketches and alternative wedding halls.
The Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations of North America also aided those affected by the fire, providing emergency relief in the form of $1,000 dollars for each family whose house was damaged in the fire.