Iconic memorial woods for Holocaust victims ravaged by fire

Fires consume iconic Jerusalem-area memorial woods planted decades ago for Polish Holocaust victims.

Cnaan Liphshiz, JTA,

Fire in Ben Shemen Forest
Fire in Ben Shemen Forest
Rivka Franks, TPS

Wildfires in the Jerusalem area ravaged one of Israel’s prettiest and largest memorial forests.

The fires Friday, aided by a scorching heat of over 40 degrees (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and eastern winds, utterly consumed the Jewish National Fund’s memorial forest around the Kdoshei Zaglambia Holocaust monument, Ynet reported

Situated on the western slopes of the Judean Hills, the forest planted decades ago for Polish victims of the genocide has a unique biodiversity connected to it being on the seam line connecting Israel’s humid coastal plain to its mountainous and arid interior.

On Friday, the fire was not yet contained, raging across large areas on the coastal plane and creeping uphill in the direction of the Ben Shemen forest. Mevoh Modi’im, located 15 miles east of Tel Aviv, saw most of its homes destroyed, and six more homes were destroyed in the town of Harel near Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv.

An Egyptian rescue helicopter, whose services the Egyptian government offered on Thursday, helped contain the fire near Harel. The Palestinian Authority has also offered to send fire fighting teams, Ynet reported.

The fires have resulted in the evacuation of well over 3,500 people, but most were allowed to return home Friday morning. So far, only 15 people were lightly injured as a result of the fires.

The flames have, however, caused major disruptions in train traffic and congestion along main arteries between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.