After the Fire, the Gift of Family

Just a few months ago, Odelia and Ohad Brat celebrated one of the happiest occasions of their lives: their son’s bar mitzvah. They’ll never forget when he received his brand-new tefillin— special leather boxes worn during prayer—from his beloved grandparents. Everyone was so filled with pride. And they’ll never forget grabbing those same tefillin at the last minute as they and their six children—ranging in age from 20 to six—quickly fled their home in Talmon. A raging fire was only minutes away. So they took what was most precious to them. It was a smart split-second decision. Flames destroyed much of the Brat family house. The entire upstairs was charred. When the family returned, they could barely even recognize what used to be their home. The Brats did make one unlikely discovery, though. A bank tin, badly burned. Inside was the money one of their sons had earned mowing lawns for neighbors. It was dirty and damp, but it was there. It’s a symbol for what it’ll take to rebuild their home and their lives. It’s not going to happen overnight. But they have each other. And Federation partner The Jewish Agency for Israel, which is delivering grants of $1,000 to families across Israel who lost everything in the fires. With the grant, the Brats are able to buy clothing, medicine and other essentials for their large family. Odelia says that the care, concern and support they’ve received from The Jewish Agency has left her speechless.

The latest updates from Israel on the fires and recovery. Click here for information.

UPDATED INFORMATION - November 29, 2016

Over the past five days, about 2,500 firefighters have been contending with approximately 630 fires throughout Israel. One and a half million tons of liquids and fire inhibitors were dumped on the ground in over 480 airplane sorties.
Hundreds of houses went up in flames, tens of thousands of people were evacuated, and 133 people were injured.
The Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Jewish National Fund (KKL/JNF)  announced a general mobilization of its firefighting network, along with additional staff that joined the effort to save the forests. Over 300 KKL-JNF staff and firefighters, together with 20 fire trucks and heavy mechanical equipment are assisting firefighting operations in the forests and open spaces.
In response to the fires, the KKL-JNF Field and Forest Center in Nes Harim opened its doors to families and residents who were evacuated from their homes. The field center is located in the Jerusalem Mountains and offers emergency housing in its guestrooms, which can host families of up to six who were affected by the fires raging in Israel.
The Field and Forest Center offers rooms with beds, hot showers, a cafeteria where meals are provided, activities for children with top counselors, and a bit of reprieve in a supportive atmosphere. The site is fenced in and guarded. 
According to KKL-JNF World Chairman Danny Atar, “as part of our commitment to the Jewish people and to the citizens of Israel, we are providing, immediately and with no time limit, living units for families who were forced to evacuate their homes due to fire. KKL-JNF foresters and firefighters are working around the clock to help stop the flames and save Israel’s forests. At the same time, we are using all our resources to help those who were adversely affected by the fires. Opening the field and forest center is the first stage.” 

UPDATED INFORMATION - November 28, 2016

Over the past days, dozens of fires broke out throughout Israel. We are happy to report that firefighters have gained control of most of the blazes. We would like to update you about Jewish Agency activities vis-à-vis the victims of the fires who were left homeless.

Assistance for Homeless Families

The Jewish Federations of North America will be distributing special grants immediately to families who have lost their homes due to the fires. Currently the estimate is that there are around 700 such families, and they will be receiving a grant of $1,000 per family. At this point it is important to mention JUF Federation of Metropolitan Chicago who have already advanced $500,000 to JFNA in connection with the emergency situation in Israel brought about by the fires. 



When a nursing home in Haifa caught fire, Amigour stepped up to provide shelter to nearly 30 elderly residents, who were evacuated from their facility to the newly-expanded Amigour building in Kiryat Yam.


The fact that this facility is two months ahead of schedule on its construction was especially fortuitous. The JFNA received permission to open the new floors ahead of schedule to provide solutions for these elderly individuals whose long-term care facility was on fire.


We salute Amigour staff for their hard and dedicated work throughout the last few days in helping these individuals feel safe.


Amigour directs rehabilitation for war damages to properties on behalf of the Israeli government. It is prepared, at the request of the state, to manage the repair and, in some cases, renovation, of those facilities that are determined to have been damaged as the result of arson.


Hanita Absorption Center

As the fire spread in Haifa, JFNA staff deployed a special team to evacuate its Absorption Center in the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood. The team visited each apartment and guided the olim in preparing for temporary relocation. They also prepared apartments in Kiryat Yam and buses for the transfer. Luckily, firefighters were able to stop the flames on the ridge in front of the absorption center, so an evacuation was averted.


Throughout the country,JFNA staff has reviewed fire safety guidelines at absorption centers, ulpanim, and other Jewish Agency facilities.


We will continue updating you, and hope for quiet and rainy days ahead.


Please watch this video of the fires from the Times of Israel.