Fires swept across Israel in late November. They sent scores of Israelis to hospitals, and caused severe damage to private property, urban areas, and parks. With the fires under control, The Jewish Agency for Israel’s unit for Special Operations and Emergency Response has turned its attention to providing the immediate needs of families whose homes were destroyed in the flames.
On November 30, Jewish Agency Chariman Natan Sharansky, and Barry Shrage, president of CJP Greater Boston, visited families in Haifa who have lost nearly everything. More than 75,000 residents of Haifa were evacuated – close to a quarter of the city’s population. This constituted the largest mass civilian mobilization in Israel’s history.
Generous contributions from our partners, the Jewish Federations of North America – led by the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago (JUF), and Combined Jewish Philanthropies – Boston’s Jewish Federation (CJP) – as well as Keren Hayesod, and other donors around the world, have allowed The Jewish Agency to deliver more than 550 grants of $1,000 each to families in need. Grants were distributed in Haifa, Zichron Yaakov, Mateh Yehuda, Mateh Binyamin, Nirit, Gilon, and others around the country.
But many families remain in need of help – it is estimated that 700 homes across the country have been damaged or destroyed.
Solidarity matters most in times of crisis. That’s why The Jewish Agency is deeply proud that Jewish communities are coming together to provide support to the hundreds of people and families displaced or hurt by the fires.
“Organizations from across the globe, and particularly in North America, very swiftly combined our forces so that we could make sure help is received by those who need it most,” Sharansky said.
Shrage added: “The secret of this miracle is hundreds of dedicated intelligent, caring, and committed staff and volunteers, led by some of the very best professionals I've ever met ... Haifa is a strong community characterized by mutual respect, cooperation, inclusion, and hope. Boston is blessed to be partnering with this community and grateful for the cooperation of The Jewish Agency and the JDC.”
Yael Raz, Director of the Special Operations and Emergency Response of the Jewish Agency, reflected on the response from the victims upon receiving the assistance funds. “Everyone who received a check through us expressed their gratitude and couldn’t believe we’d come so soon. We gave them the funds without red tape, right away, just as soon as we received a list of the houses that had been burnt in the various locations around the country.”
Raz added: “The people whose homes were burnt are not wealthy. These are working, middle class people, some of whom ran a business from home.”
The Jewish Agency’s unit for Special Operations and Emergency Response has been operating since 2011. The members of staff have a wealth of experience in working in emergency situations since the Second Lebanon War.
When the fires broke out, The Jewish Agency activated a well-prepared distribution mechanism to provide immediate grants for the victim families, similar to the Fund for Victims of Terror which the Jewish Agency has operated since 2007. The grants of $1,000 per household are designed to cover initial needs and demonstrate solidarity by Jewish communities with the victims.
In the coming days, we will keep you informed of all that we are doing to help the families who have lost their property to the fires. The Jewish Agency is grateful to our partners for their generous support which has enabled us to provide hope and comfort to the fire victims.