(May 24, 2019 / JNS) As a near record-setting heat wave and wildfires are ravaging Israel, several of Israel’s allies in Europe as well as Egypt are sending firefighting equipment to the country.
Italy, Croatia, Greece and Cyprus have all agreed to send firefighting planes to help Israel. Egypt, on the order of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, already sent two helicopters, while the Palestinian Authority and Russia have also offered to help, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters.
“As of this moment, this [containment] is being done in the best possible way, but the challenge is yet ahead of us given the weather conditions, the winds and the extreme heat,” said Netanyahu.
The fire outbreak came as Israelis marked the Lag B’Omer holiday on Thursday, which is normally celebrated with bonfires, although due to weather warnings many fires were restricted. Dozens of homes were destroyed on Thursday in multiple locations after forested areas near Jerusalem caught fire, which caused major damage to small towns along the highway connecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Israeli firefighters also battled blazes in the region surrounding the Gaza Strip, as well as near Ben-Gurion Airport and outside of Jerusalem.
As a result, Israel Police have ordered the evacuation of several communities in the central and southern part of the country.
Police said that a fire had nearly destroyed the village of Mevo Modi’im, a community founded by the late songwriter and musician Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Residents in the nearby town of Gimzo evacuated Torah scrolls from the community’s synagogue as the fire approached.
Fires again began on Friday with residents in the South Hebron Hills being evacuated.
Israel is suffering through a near record-setting heat wave for late May as temperatures approach of exceed 100 degrees throughout many areas of the country. Some towns between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are expected to hit 110 degrees, while the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley areas are expected to approach 120 degrees.
There are also fears that Palestinians in Gaza may attempt to start fires on Friday in the border region using airborne incendiary devices.
“The balloon terror may get worse [on Friday] depending on the wind direction, after a few of their attempts failed today,” a fire official in the region told Army Radio, referring to arson via lit kites and balloons that Hamas encourages from Gaza towards Israeli towns and fields in the south.