Harp maker who lost workshop in Jerusalem forest fire to sue state for damages

Micha Harari’s gallery, with 40 years of work, went up in flames in August; now he’s filing a civil case against the fire service and local authority for failing to prepare

Micah Harari holds a harp at his burned harp factory in Moshav Ramat Raziel, in the Jerusalem mountains, August 18, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Micah Harari holds a harp at his burned harp factory in Moshav Ramat Raziel, in the Jerusalem mountains, August 18, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A harp maker whose workshop was destroyed in the massive August forest fire that devastated several communities around Jerusalem said Sunday that he would sue state authorities for damages over a lack of preparedness in dealing with the blaze.

Returning to his community of Ramat Raziel after the fire had died down, Micha Harari found that his harp workshop and gallery, housing instruments he had made by hand over the past 40 years, had been reduced to ashes.

“Everything was burned, the gallery, the work complex. Nothing was left,” he told Walla news this week, estimating the damage at three to four million shekels ($960,000 to $1.2 million).

His workshop, he said, had dozens of rare items made of special wood, pieces of wood from local olive trees up to 1,500 years old, specialized machines and equipment, and more.

According to Harari, his insurance company had refused to insure the work complex because of its proximity to the forest and the fire risk.

“Even before the disaster, they understood the danger that can happen here,” he said, turning his anger on the authorities, which he claims could have done more to prevent the destruction.

“The fire in the Jerusalem forest is another failure of the authorities, which did not learn ahead of time to prepare the forests for the summer by thinning overgrowth, establishing a buffer within the forests to prevent a spread of blazes from forest to forest, and creating firebreaks everywhere throughout the Jerusalem mountains,” Chaya Mana, Harari’s lawyer, said in a statement on the civil case being brought against the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council and the Israel Fire and Rescue Service’s Jerusalem district.

Devastation in the Jerusalem Hills following a major wildfire, August 22, 2021 (DH/Times of Israel)

The enormous wildfire consumed some 25,000 dunams (6,200 acres) of forest outside Jerusalem, scorching vast green forest areas that include beloved hiking paths and national parks, including the Sataf site and Har Hatayasim.

The blaze was one of the biggest in the country’s history, surpassing the scale of a December 2010 forest fire in the northern Carmel forest that burned 24,000 dunams and claimed the lives of 44 people.

Speaking to Channel 12 news shortly after the blaze, Harari recounted fleeing for his life when the flames first roared toward the community.

“When the fire kindled, I was in my work complex, which is 150 meters (492 feet) from the house,” he said. “I saw the flames begin to approach. My wife and I fled immediately. We didn’t even have time to pack a bag, take any clothes or food. We had to leave as quickly as possible.”

He posted images to his Facebook page of the approaching flames and the devastation they left behind. His wife’s natural medicine clinic was also totally destroyed.

“When I saw my life’s work burned to the ground, I was crushed,” he said. “Everything is gone, there’s nothing left.”

The fire just before it hit the back of the harp workshop.Edited: Our dear friends have put together a campaign to help…

Posted by Micah Harrari on Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Israel this week has been sweltering under yet another heatwave with low humidity, providing ideal conditions for flames to spread.

In total, 212 blazes broke out over the weekend amid a rash of wildfires, Fire and Rescue Services officials said. Firefighting planes carried out around 100 sorties and disbursed some 34,500 liters of material to extinguish the blazes.

Authorities believe at least two massive wildfires on Saturday were started intentionally, according to the results of an initial investigation conducted by fire officials. There was no evidence publicly presented to back up the claim and authorities had warned in advance of the weekend that hot and dry weather combined with the winds would present perfect conditions for fires.

A nationwide fire ban, instituted earlier this week, remains in effect until November 30.

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