The Jewish Agency for Israel said it will provide financial aid to Israeli families who are unable to return to their homes after they were damaged or destroyed in the fires sweeping across the country over the past week.
Each family will be eligible to receive $1,000, the Jewish Agency said in a press release on Sunday.
Local authorities working in with the National Emergency Authority, a branch of the Public Security Ministry, will select those who qualify for the assistance which will be provided by the Jewish Federations of North America — in particular the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago — Keren Hayesod-UIA, and other contributors.
Head of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky said that Jews around the world will always assist Israel in its hour of need.
“At trying times like these, world Jewry feels closely connected to what is taking place in Israel and comes to our help without hesitation,” he said, adding that “we are proud of our partners in Jewish communities around the world, and particularly in North America, and appreciate their solidarity when it matters the most.”
On Saturday evening, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon approved a stipend of 2,500 shekels ($650) per person for those who have fled the raging fires nationwide over the past week and could not return to their homes either because they were destroyed or are currently uninhabitable.
“We will stand by our residents even after the smoke clears,” Kahlon said, adding that he gave instructions to officials to “be clear, be generous, and don’t let them [those affected] drown in paperwork or be passed around from representative to representative.”
“It’s not an easy task to assess the damage but it is our duty to help residents rebuild their lives,” he said
Since Tuesday, firefighters have been battling wildfires throughout the country that on Thursday hit the city of Haifa, forcing some 60,000 residents to evacuate their homes. The residents have since been cleared to return home, though over 1,000 houses have been damaged.
Attending to the rash of fires across the country, firefighting planes from Israel and countries including Russia, Turkey, Greece, France, and Spain have dumped tons of water and retardants.
Palestinian Authority fire crews also joined the efforts last week, sending 41 firefighters and eight trucks.
The Magen David Adom rescue service reported Saturday that among the 133 people treated by the organization for fire-related injuries, one was seriously hurt and three others were moderately injured. The overall tally is likely higher, officials said, as some people – one estimate suggested as many as 50 – may have gone to hospitals on their own for injuries such as smoke inhalation.
Haifa city officials said Saturday that the fires ravaged some 28,000 dunams (6,900 acres) of land in the city since Thursday. Between 400 and 530 homes were damaged by the fires there.
Officials over the weekend also maintained that some of the fires were deliberately set in acts characterized by police and politicians as terrorist in nature, but Israeli security officials on Saturday night gave preliminary indications that weather conditions were the prime cause of the initial wave of fires. Arsonists became a factor from Wednesday and into the weekend, they said.
AFP contributed to this report.