Monday, December 6, 2010
MOUNT CARMEL - הר הכרמל
The mountain range Har HaCarmel in the north of Israel stretches from the Mediterranean sea to the southeast, it doesn't stand very high, about 550 m, extending 23 km with a width of about 10 km.
For the Israeli people it is a paradise, a beautiful wild nature park, with a dense forest of old trees, like oak and pine and an abundance of animal and plant life. Families love to hike and picnic there on weekends. A huge variety of plants, more than 600 species, grow on this mountain, and the place is in full bloom in spring with the most wonderful flowers.
The name Carmel Mountain, HarCarmel in Hebrew means the "vineyard of god" and as a matter of fact ancient wine and oil presses have been discovered at various places on the range.
Haifa is located on the northern slope of the Carmel and more towns are present on the range, like Sichron Yaakov, Yokneam, Tirat Carmel, Nesher, the artists colony Ein Hod, and two Druze cities, Usfia and Daliat alCarmel. In the heart of the mountain forest lies the Kibbutz Beit Oren. There are several caves on the mountain, including one with prehistoric finds.
On and off the Carmel's history there have been natural fires, from those the forest always recovered relatively soon. This time real tragedy struck last week, Thursday, December 2th, on a beautiful sunny day, when the worst fire ever, supported by strong winds, started to sweep through the mountain. It resulted in the highest loss of life in a natural disaster here in Israel. We mourn 40 service guards who's life's ended terribly when their bus got engulfed by the fire on their way to evacuate a prison high up at the range. We mourn more deaths and we are in awe about many wounded, some very badly. It was necessary to vacate more than 17 000 people from their homes. Dozens of houses are lost in the blaze and Kibbutz Beit Oren is almost completely destroyed. About 9000 acres of land are burned and millions of trees are lost.
Photo: Israeli police
Finally after four days of blazing inferno the firefighters succeeded yesterday to extinguish the flames, with much help from abroad, several countries came to the rescue and deserve our deep and sincerely felt thankfulness.
Now the result of this awful catastrophe will have to be evaluated and the sad and devastating task of cleaning up, restoring, rebuilding and replanting has to start. The costs have to be calculated and will reach billions of shekels. Questions have to be answered.
The people and the damaged land will have to recover... Unfortunately too late it started to rain this morning.
Photographs Uri Eshkar