Israel Battles Fires in Heatwave

Today, for the second day in a row, Israelis are battling many fires that have started in a heatwave that hit the country in the middle of the week.

On Thursday, one ‘massive blaze’ near Kibbutz Harel is thought to have been caused by a falling electric cable in a nearby town and has damaged six homes.

Mevo Modiim suffered major damageA fire blazing in Mevo Modi`im

But in Mevo Modi`im, a village surrounded by woodland, 40 of the town’s 50 homes were damaged and hundreds of residents spent the night in community centres.

Sadly, it is thought that the fire which destroyed most of the village may be the result of bonfires lit in celebration of the Lag BaOmer holiday, which celebrates the passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in the 2nd Century, because he told his disciples to mark the date as “the day of my joy.”

Friday was expected to be even hotter than Thursday, with temperatures peaking at around 40?C in Jerusalem. Eastern winds were also expected to increase the risk of more fires.

These circumstances prompted the authorities to issue guidelines forbidding fires in open areas and industrial activities that involve sparks. In addition, all activities in national parks were also cancelled.

The situation became so serious on Thursday that Benjamin Netanyahu put out an urgent plea for help in battling the fires. Ground firefighting units from Cyprus arrived in Israel this morning, and aircraft from Cyprus, Greece, Croatia and Italy are expected later in the day.

Netanyahu thanked Egypt for sending two helicopters to support Israel’s firefighters, and said that both the Palestinian Authority and the Russians were among others who had offered assistance.