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Thaksgiving - November 24 2016 - HaifaOnFire.jpg

Thanksgiving – Haifa on Fire

I am not a spiritual person, but I experienced a day of thanksgiving yesterday.

We had a bit too much excitement here in Israel on Thursday (Thanksgiving) – most of the Carmel mountain in Haifa went up in flame, in almost an instant. 75000 people evacuated.

That’s where my daughter and her family live.

In the morning, they took their oldest to kindergarten, and planned to have a parents mental health day. Her husbands mother was there to watch their little one so that they were  free to go. As usual they were late getting off and the sky was getting black, they thought that  rain was on the way as the weatherman had predicted.  They live on the top of the mountain where each neighborhood is defined by a deep natural dry river beds covered with vegetation. Eventually, they actually looked out the window and noticed that the sky was getting black because one ridge over, everything was on fire.

In Israel it doesn’t rain all summer, and generally not until winter comes,  so the ground is very dry.  Haifa ,in particular, is very lush and green, and the ground and trees full of dry pine needles at this time of the year. Yesterday, there was a sand storm and high winds coming from the sea and right up the mountain.  The rains no where in sight.

They ran to get their daughter from the kindergarten and came back with 3 kids. ( including 2 other children whose parents could not get there in time.) Their house was filling with smoke, so they all went to the hospital across the street to take shelter.  That was OK for about 2 hours until the hospital itself started filling up with smoke.

My daughter, who works at that hospital, started searching the 7 floors of the hospital for a better place to breathe, to no avail. At a certain point her husband made a decision to get them out of there.  Outside was black with smoke and hard to breathe. Their car was full of black soot.

Help from Afar

My son who lives in the USA happened to be talking to my daughter when they made the decision to leave. Remotely he accessed the twitter feed of the Haifa police, and with the help of Waze  helped them find the route out.  Many streets were blocked because of fires, and visibilty poor.  The street under their house (and the hospital) was ablaze.  Many firetrucks were at the hospital to prevent it from going up in flames.  There was a lot of smoke everywhere and my son was able to direct them from afar, eg. turn left here, go straight etc.  How amazing technology these days!

They all breathed a bit too much smoke, but they are all well.  They made it safe to the in laws house, but fires are still raging all over the country.  Many of the fires were arson (reporting 50%, but not yet verified), stupidity, and the fact that starting a fire is not very difficult with said weather conditions. The rains are not expected for another several days.

Many countries have sent tanker airplanes to help put out the fires, another reason for thanksgiving.  But the air tankers cannot fly at night when the wind is strongest.  We have to wait to see what will happen when the winds finally die out. Miraculously, no deaths were reported.  Watching the fires on TV from afar, and knowing how dense the buildings are on the mountain, that is a miracle.

Meantime, my crazy kid wants to go back home, and pick up her life again.  Her building and the hospital across the street are in tact.  Until the rains come, it is probably not a great idea.

For me, it was a real day of thanksgiving.