Haifa Residents Try to Get Back to Normal in a Torched City

After the fires, 1,200 people can’t go back to their homes, and many of the town’s famous pines have been destroyed.

A family examines the damage to their house after the fires in Haifa, November 25, 2016.
Reuters / Amir Cohen

Some Haifa families whose homes were burned by the five days of fires are being housed by the municipality, and others are staying with relatives or friends. Either way, people are trying to get back to normal in a city that will be without some of its famous greenery.

According to city hall, about 1,200 residents of the northern Israeli city can’t go back to their homes. Forty-two structures 213 dwellings have been declared dangerous, and 24 structures 199 dwellings require immediate attention. The Israel Electric Corporation has restored power to the whole city.

Photographer Alina Lieberman, who lives on Einstein Street, has been “documenting the horror” since Friday morning, as she put it.

The fire caught her at home with her mother, her 91-year-old grandmother and her two cats. “We smelled smoke; the fire was three houses down in Einstein Grove,” she said.

“We saw the police outside and lots of patrol cars parked near the house. I took my camera, my laptop and the cats, and that’s how we left, without clothes or anything else.”

Residents of a home on Einstein Street in Haifa collect burned photos, November 25, 2016.
Rami Shllush

A popular grove of trees on Einstein Street has been completely destroyed. “It’s sad,” Lieberman said. “It’s something that can’t be brought back.”

The grove connects a playground and dog park named after Danielle Manchel, who was killed in a terror attack at Haifa’s Matza Restaurant in 2002.

Aki Flexer lives on Shazar Street in a row of six semidetached house. The fire flanked both sides of the houses.

“It touched the gardens, it burned plastic fences, but it didn’t touch the houses,” he said. “The outer walls were untouched.” According to Flexer, he and his neighbors will miss the greenery most.

“This project was built 35 years ago and was called ‘the pines neighborhood.’ Three streets built into the pines, surrounded by pines,” he said.

“What’s left are a few high pines and in the middle a clearing where everything’s black. After the first rain everything will be brown. The ash will disappear and there will only be earth.”

Ziva Nahshon stands next to her burned house on Einstein Street in Haifa, November 25, 2016.
Rami Shllush

The home of the parents of Nir Schuber, a social activist and co-owner of Haifa’s Heine Kioskcafe, was severely damaged in the fire.

“Out of a house of 140 square meters [1,507 square feet], about 70 survived,” Schuber said. “Everything by the windows was destroyed. The windows exploded, the shades melted.”

Schuber said his mother had been warning the municipality for years that the trees needed trimming. But he says he “doesn’t seek to blame anyone, but to see how we resolve this going forward.”

Schools are expected to open as usual Sunday, except for the Romema School, whose students will attend classes at the Yavne’eli School in the Kiryat Eliezer neighborhood at least until Tuesday. Buses will depart from the Romema School for the Yavne’eli School at 8:30 A.M. The day will last until 4 P.M. and the children will receive sandwiches and a drink.

On Sunday, children who attend the Romema Haprachim preschool will attend the Yarden preschool on 29 Hashikma Street. From Monday until the school is renovated, the children will attend the Leon Blum preschool. Psychologists will be on hand at schools and preschools, the municipality said.