The Carmel is a national historic and environmental asset, with varied wooded landscapes developing on diverse geological formations. Colorful bulb and corm flowers, green shrubs, aromatic herbs and some very rare plant species, added to cliffs and caves with hidden archaeological and prehistoric sites, make this one of Israel’s most special regions.
Mount Carmel is historically and spiritually significant to many religions. It is the center of the Baha'i faith and is extolled by the Druze, Moslems, Jews and Christians. It was on the Carmel that Elijah performed the miracle of bringing down fire from heaven, and the Catholic Carmelite order subsequently built their monastery on the highest natural point of the Carmel mountain range, above the site of Elijah's Cave.
The name “Carmel” appears many times in the Bible, in different contexts. Carmel is a synonym for beauty and splendor: “Your head is like Carmel” (Songs of Songs 7:6), and as a term for a fertile area, rich in vines and orchards: “And I brought you into a Carmel to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof” (Jeremiah 2:7). Isaiah speaks of “the glory of his forest and of his Carmel” (Isaiah 10:18). It has been suggested the name was formed by combining the words “kerem” (vineyard) and “el” (God).
KKL-JNF and the Carmel – A Historic Bond with the Environment
The green Carmel forests just outside the Haifa city limits attract millions of visitors annually. Wooded landscapes and sea, shaded leisure areas and trails in nature, all just minutes from Israel’s third largest city, are a winning combination that is hard to beat.
KKL-JNF cares for its planted forests, together with Israel’s native woodlands. The forests have been developed with the utmost sensitivity for recreation and hiking and boast scenic roads and trails, breathtaking scenic lookouts and picnic areas equipped with all the facilities to create the perfect outdoors experience. Marked trails and interpretative signage complete the picture, allowing visitors to learn about their fascinating surroundings.
Post-fire blossom at Naftali Mountains. Photo: Avi Hirshfield, KKL-JNF Jerusalem
The 2010 Carmel Fire
December 2010 – A Terrible Wildfire Becomes a National Tragedy
Forests and woodlands in the Mediterranean region are in constant danger of fire, which occurs mainly in the summer season when the vegetation is dry and easily combustible. As the dry season progresses the danger of wildfire increases as there is an ever growing source of fuel available.
KKL-JNF is constantly alert during the fire season, in the Carmel, as well as in the rest of the country, to prevent fires from breaking out, and to control them when they do. Our early warning network includes trained fire spotters who man the Ofer fire watchtower and the Haifa University tower ensuring we are constantly prepared.
During the past few years the situation in Israel has worsened: we have suffered a number of consecutive droughts, as a result of which the vegetation has become very dry and combustible. In 2010 the situation was particularly bad; rain that usually begins by the end of October barely fell, and by December the Carmel forests and woods were a fire just waiting to break out.
When the fire started it burned for four days and nights, with strong eastern winds fanning the flames and keeping them alive. What began as the largest wildfire ever in the Carmel region quickly reached dimensions of a national tragedy when 44 people lost their lives in the fire.
The fire threatened the safety of the Carmel residents, caused untold damage to lives and property and destroyed nearly 9000 acres (3500 ha) of woodland, of which 1000 acres (400 ha) were planted forests. The beautiful Carmel evergreen landscape was now a massive patch of black. According to experts the fire also released 390,000 tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Hundreds of KKL-JNF workers labored untiringly, together with Israel’s other firefighters, to put out the raging fires. A fleet of fire trucks and trained staff rushed in from all over the country and were aided by aerial firefighters from Israel and abroad.
Carmel Forest fire map
Map depicting the areas of the Carmel Forest burnt by the fire in December 2010.
Carmel Rehabilitation Program
As the flames receded we realized the tremendous job that awaited us – the once green hills had to be thoroughly rehabilitated. A special committee of experts was established to deal with the situation headed by Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, joined by the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance, the Nature and Parks Authority, KKL-JNF, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the IDF, the Israel Fire and Rescue Service and scientists from academic institutions. The committee’s objective was to control fire damage and prevent future wildfires.
KKL-JNF Friends in Israel and worldwide lend a hand to making the Carmel green once again by:
- Repairing the environmental damage caused by the fire.
- Renewing the essential protective equipment for firefighting foresters.
- Providing forest firefighters with the necessary equipment for their job.
Many years will go by until we will once again see the tall canopies of trees on the Carmel. The help of all our friends is essential and significant both in the short-term and the long-term for the future of one of Israel’s most important green lungs. Help us and our future generations enjoy the incomparable nature experience offered by Mt. Carmel!
KKL-JNF Plans for Rehabilitating Open Areas
KKL-JNF has taken upon itself the immense task of rehabilitation for the benefit of the people of Israel, in particular those who suffered direct damage to their homes. It will be many years before they see the beautiful green expanses to which they were accustomed. KKL-JNF is preparing for the long, complex process ahead, and will base itself on experience from the past, the decisions of the expert committees and specific research projects financed by KKL-JNF in order to gain the best possible understanding of the post-fire rehabilitation process in forests.
The scorched Carmel. Photo: Hagai Aaron, KKL-JNF Jerusalem
Rehabilitation activity focuses on the following fields:
1. Forest Rehabilitation
Three sections have been specified for rehabilitation and will undergo the following treatments:
- Removal of burnt trees that can endanger visitors and foresters. These trees tend to collapse, are potential fuel for future fires, as well as interfering with natural regeneration and planting activity.
- Monitoring as a basis for formulating management decisions regarding unburned trees in burnt areas, and actions to conserve soil while preventing erosion resulting from rain.
- Forest rehabilitation will be based on natural regeneration: after the wave of germination and growth in the first spring following the fire a comprehensive survey will be conducted to verify the scope of natural regeneration in burnt areas. At sites where no natural regeneration took place plans will be prepared according to the goals and objectives of the general rehabilitation plan. Further plantings will be carried out at sites intended for recreation and to enrich the native vegetation with broad-leaved species.
- A natural regeneration survey will be conducted as the basis for guidelines for forestry treatments to create a healthy, attractive forest suitable for recreation and with environmental considerations.
- Firebreaks are necessary to prevent spread of wildfires and save the forest flora and fauna. Existing firebreaks will be improved and new ones developed around communities, recreation areas and roads. Creating firebreaks requires intensive and repeated thinning of trees and shrubs and other forestry treatments.
- Intensifying grazing in the forest as a method for thinning and reducing vegetation that is potential fire fuel, particularly in firebreak areas.
- Installing water points and pipes at recreation areas for filling fire trucks.
As a result of the fire a need has arisen to develop the Carmel forests that border on the burned area and open them to the public. As part of this effort new trails and recreation areas
will be developed, roads will be repaired and new buffer areas will be established. These will allow the public to enjoy the unburned forest sections safely, and observe how the ecosystem gradually returns to itself.
3. Firefighting System Upgrade
In order to enable early identification of wildfires and timely equipping of firefighting forces KKL-JNF must improve its firefighting system, which includes personal safety equipment such as helmets, fireproof shirts, masks and safety glasses, heatproof shoes and gloves, and also includes warning and extinguishing systems such as fire trucks, nozzles, a command vehicle including modern communications systems, firefighting kits attached to field vehicles, early warning systems, night vision equipment, field computers, beepers, digital cameras, portable fire extinguishers.