On Thursday morning Lior and I woke up to a busily pinging WhatsApp and tens of unanswered calls on our phones. Our loved ones in Haifa wanted to let us know that they were safe despite the raging fires. Rushing to the TV screen, we saw our neighborhoods in flames; The playground that I used to play in as a child, the wooded area that I used to walk around in as a teenager, and the houses of my friends in which I was hosted all through my adulthood- they were all burning and were now a mix of scorched land and debris.
The raging fires affected about 700 buildings in Haifa, leaving families with no place to live and mere memories of what their lives used to look like.
Before the fires broke out, my brother had decided to postpone a trip that he had planned. This decision saved our family: he escorted my 95-year-old grandfather and his caregiver, my mother’s guest from the United States who we were hosting at the time, and one of our neighbors to his girlfriend’s family house located in the Krayot, north of Haifa. For three days, while the raging fires continued, they shared the same roof; seven people in a two-bedroom apartment. They stayed there until the toxic air was clear again.
When they came back to Haifa, they found a devastated urban area. At my mother’s house the AC unit, hot water boiler and outside sheds were completely wrecked. We later found out that the house got contaminated by toxic smoke, forcing my mother to scrap the interior of the house and to hire professional help to decontaminate the walls. However, we were lucky compared to the owners of the neighboring house, which was burnt to ground, with nothing left to recover.
It was the alertness and dedication of the Israeli security services that saved lives through the evacuation of 75,000 people to safety. In their bravery in fighting the fires they managed to minimize the number of those injured. I have a group of friends who started an on-demand volunteering programs to aid people in recovering from the fires. Each unit has three or four volunteers accompany a professional repair technician in restoring people’s homes. We know that the same solidarity that Israel showed while the fires blazed is what will make Haifa gain its strength back.
On behalf of Haifa, we thank you so much for your care!
Daniel Lavie, originally from Haifa, is an MBA student in the Sloan School of Management at MIT.