British charities mobilise for Camel forest fund

Dozens of charities have launched appeals to fund recovery after the forest fires.

The Carmel will become green again

As light rain finally fell on fire-ravaged Mount Carmel on Tuesday, Efi Stenzler, chairman of Keren Kayement LeIsrael, was there initiating plans for its restoration.

The Israeli arm of the Jewish National Fund has planted more than 220 million trees in Israel since its establishment in 1901 to buy land.

But it cannot begin replacing the 1.5 million lost trees just yet. "Many of them will renew by themselves," Mr Stenzler said. "Others will need to be planted. But we have to let the land rest. We have to do a lot of preparation first in order to see which trees will survive."

More than 2,500 acres of forest belonging to KKL were destroyed. "We are the foresters of Israel," Mr Stenzler, "so we will be taking care of all Mount Carmel, not only the what belongs to KKL."

It will also need to replace roads and water facilities.

Some of its new firetrucks, bought at £200,000 apiece after the Second Lebanon War, were in action for the first time in "the battle against the fire," he said. "We have 12 – but we need at least another 12 more."

But as he showed around Russell Robinson, chief executive of JNF USA – which has raised £1 million so far – Mr Stenzler vowed: "It will take a long time, but we are going to bring the green back to Mount Carmel."

Simon Rocker

JNF UK, along with its sister organisations worldwide, is raising money to replant and replenish more than 12,000 acres of destroyed natural woodlands.

Samuel Hayek, JNF UK chairman, said: "What has happened in the Carmel region is an absolute tragedy for all involved. JNF mourns the loss of the life which has occurred and is greatly distressed by the extensive environmental and ecological damage caused by the fires.

"We know from talking to JNF officials in the region that it will take decades for the landscape to be rehabilitated. Some of the trees burned were between 50 and 100 years old.

"The Bring Green Back to the Carmel campaign will raise funds to repair the damaged landscape and replant the tress which have been destroyed."

JNF KKL Scotland is planning an intensive telephone fundraiser on Sunday.

The British Friends of Haifa University have joined an international campaign to raise $10million (around £7million) for the institution which has 15,000 students.

Jack Raymond, executive director of the British Friends of Haifa University, said: "This is one of the worst disasters ever to hit the region. We were heartened to hear that everyone had left the campus safely but many will have been affected in different ways."

The university was used as the emergency central command for all forces, including the firefighters, the army and the police.

"We urgently need donations to provide humanitarian aid such as financial support and counselling to students who have been affected. Added to this is the critical need to bolster fire protection and safety measures in and around the campus."

Around 40 per cent of Yemin Orde Youth Village - home to more than 500 orphans, refugees and children from dysfunctional homes - was destroyed. All the children were evacuated and rebuilding will begin in six months.

Youth Aliyah Child Rescue, which runs the village, has launched an appeal to raise $10million to rehouse the children for the next six months.

Melvin Robinson, co-chairman of Youth Aliyah Child Rescue, said: "Our major concern is what to do with the children. The whole infrastructure has been wiped out, the electricity, water and sewage will have to be renewed before we can start building again.

"We need somewhere to rent for six months because they need to be together."

GIFT, a community initiative charity, has launched an emergency toy collection to help children affected by the fire. It has asked contributors to place their new toys in the GIFT toy boxes outisde Good 4 You stores in Hendon and Edgware.

Last updated: 3:32pm, January 5 2011