December 7, 2010 – New York, NY – “The people of the Carmel region are the strongest I’ve ever met,” said Marc Kelman, Vice President of Campaign for Jewish National Fund (JNF), of the people he met on a 48-hour trip to the Carmel region with JNF CEO Russell F. Robinson to assess the damage and determine both short-term and long-term needs. “Everywhere we went they expressed their utmost gratitude for our support and showed a fierce determination to rebuild.”
JNF’s Operation Carmel Renewal: From Black to Green has already brought in $2 million to repair the vast ecological damage caused by the fires, replace depleted firefighting supplies, provide firefighters with much-needed equipment to battle future fires, and restore green space to area kibbutzim, moshavim, and youth villages. Visit www.jnf.org/carmelrenewal for information or to donate to the campaign.
Robinson and Kelman also visited the family of Elad Riven, the 16-year-old volunteer firefighter who died, saw the devastation at the Yemin Orde Youth Village and area kibbutzim, and held a thank you lunch for 200 firefighters at Atlit.
Our response,” said Robinson, “is not one just for today. JNF is here for tomorrow as well, and this campaign is taking into account the short-term and long-term needs of Israel’s most lush region and its most heroic firefighters. They are all a priority to us.”
As became obvious over the past few days, Israel’s firefighting force has a dearth of supplies and almost $1 million of equipment was used or lost battling the blaze. Needs include ladder trucks, alternative rescue vehicles, compact fire trucks, vests, masks, hoses, extinguishing agent, thermal cameras, motorcycles, and more.
Said Robinson, “We saw, first by air and then by foot, what these heroes did to battle the fires. Brave doesn’t even begin to describe them. This is not open land they were working in. Israel’s forests are urban forests and are up against communities and kibbutzim; some people even live inside the forests. These firefighters worked valiantly to save lives.”
As for forest rehabilitation, because of the scope of the ecological damage, the renewal of the Carmel Forest will take decades to complete. Drawing upon lessons learned after the Second Lebanon War, JNF will rely heavily on natural regeneration, an extremely labor-intensive and costly process. Regenerating trees grow very densely, requiring foresters to monitor every square foot of the forest and perform frequent thinning operations to ensure tree health and create a space suitable for recreation. In some regions, new trees will be planted so that the public will be able to enjoy the forest again without having to wait 50 years for natural regrowth. All new plantings will be native species. The renewal process will also include clearing debris and restoring infrastructure; preventing soil erosion in the absence of the vegetation that usually stems the flow of water; and preventing the spread of future fires by creating firebreaks, thinning woodlands, and removing burnt vegetation.
It is already abundantly clear that it will take a long time to restore the lush green appearance of Mount Carmel,” said Dr. Omri Bonneh, director of KKL-JNF’s Northern Region. “The ecological damage is enormous. Vast tracts of planted forest, natural woodland and carpets of flowers have been destroyed, and thousands of birds, reptiles and mammals have been killed. It will take decades for the landscape to be rehabilitated. Some of the trees burned were between fifty and a hundred years old.”
Funds raised will also re-green the Yemin Orde youth village and kibbutzim that were severely damaged. Funds will plant trees, build recreation areas and entranceways, and go towards overall beautification projects in these affected areas.
The story of Elad Riven is one of true heroism. The long-awaited only son of his parents, at age 14 he, along with about 1,000 other kids his age, joined the Fire and Rescue Services for his community service requirement. After the requisite 60 hours of training, he decided to stay on as a volunteer firefighter, even paid for his own uniform, and helped to train others.
On the day the fires broke out he went home from school, had a quick snack, packed up his gear and kissed his mother good-bye; he was going to help fight the fires. He waved down a passing fire truck and asked them to take him to his unit, but along the way they were called to help the bus of prison wardens. No one even knew he was on that truck. Until about six hours later when his mother went looking for him…
Said Kelman: “This trip – at once humbling, inspiring and heartbreaking – drove home the point of what we need to do. These firefighters, these foresters risked their lives. Now we need to ensure that the next time, their job won’t be that hard.”www.jnf.org.