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Eyewitness report from Haifa

19 December 2016

At ten thirty I looked outside again. We already had heard that the arsonists tried to set fire to the main fire brigade’s station, so it was obvious that they intended more mischief. All of a sudden there was a flame on the hill opposite.

We live in Haifa, on top of Mount Carmel. I am one of the proud activists who support the coexistence between Jews and non-Jews

But all of a sudden there was a flame and it got worse. A few moments later there were eleven fire alarms around us. But not in our street. Fire broke out on all sides upwards, big flames, red, orange, brown flames. I phoned my daughter who was lost for a moment and didn’t know how to get her three little boys out of pre-school kindergartens. She lives in the street next to us. Together we ran to the kindergartens where there was panic everywhere. I told the boys that we were going on an adventure trip and put them in their child safety seats in the car.

“I told the little ones that were going to play dodgem car and stepped on the gas. Across the footpath, through the flames and gone they were.”

The flames were everywhere now and it became dark due to the smoke around us. We were in a kind of traffic jam in our own neighbourhood because everybody wanted to get out. Near the exit two cars collided with one another. Flames and smoke all around us. I told the little ones that we were going to play dodgem for real now and stepped on the gas once more. Across the footpath, right through the flames and gone they were. My daughter restrained herself and didn’t cry.

It took some time, but after half an hour we were off the mountain and out of town. All around us we saw panic, fear, police, ambulances and fire fighters. We drove off towards the beach, where I treated the children with sweets while we were looking for my wife. All other relatives were all right. After half an hour my wife could answer the phone. The telephone network was overloaded of course. When I heard her voice I was so relieved that emotions came out.

Since we could not go home we all decided go to our youngest daughter. There we organized a sleepover party for the five grandchildren. We were all glued to the television and watched the news. Friends called and sent messages. We could drop in with everyone. We didn’t get much sleep that night. I followed the news. Arsonists got run in. Finally. Some of them carried printed instructions, we heard. Haifa burnt all night.

This morning we came back slowly. Once we were on top of the mountain we saw the total destruction. The arsonists did a good job and the dry wind helped them. Everything that was green is now burnt. Seven hundred flats and houses are totally destroyed by fire. Our house is still standing. Around us there is a lot of damage. We will stand guard tonight. Smoking is not allowed. My wife checked the house, was satisfied and went for a bit of shut-eye and immediately fell asleep soundly.

Friends and acquaintances from abroad called nonstop. How can they help? Keren Hayesod is already at it, just like Christians for IsraelArthur, a friend of our son, was just about to get married and together with his fiancé he just finished furnishing their flat. They lost everything. Everything is burnt.

This was not just a fire. This was a murder attempt. Of course with God’s help there were no casualties, only slightly injured. The perpetrators are getting run in one by one. I suspect that the arrests will be the reason that the international press will pay attention to this arson, pitying the perpetrators. We prepare for Shabbat. Tonight we say an extra prayer of thanks.

Because we survived.

Simon Soesan

Simon Soesan lives in Haifa and contributes regularly for Christians for Israel’s newspaper “Israël Aktueel”. He also writes columns for various other magazines. 

Please help to relieve the suffering!

Please pray for Israel and the Jewish people that they overcome the mental and physical damage resulting from these terrible fires! If you would like to participate then join us so that we can help the Jewish people recovering from the present situation. We will ask Israel which help is needed. But for example think of replanting trees or providing the first necessities of life for the people who lost their homes.

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1)

Thank the Lord that the fires are under control now and that there were no fatalities.