University of Haifa International School Student Blog
It has been a whirlwind past weekend! As you may or may not know, around 80,000 people had to evacuate the city of Haifa over the past few days because of immense wildfires blazing across the city. The fires were widespread and devastating, destroying over 700 homes and buildings. Luckily, the University of Haifa campus was not among those damaged. Still, as a precaution, International Students were among the 80,000 evacuated.
Having never been in a similar situation before, I had no idea what to expect. However, what began as a nerve-wracking and potentially dangerous situation became a testament to the solidarity and support from both the students and everyone who assisted in the evacuation. I was beyond impressed with the swiftness and care the International School staff and other organizations took during this crisis. To expound upon all this, I’d like to share my experience of this past weekend with you all.
This past Thursday (Thanksgiving!), I woke up to a siren going off inside my dorm. Prior to this, I didn’t even know there was a speaker system in the apartment I live in. The speaker notified us about the fires, and said that as of now there would be no evacuation of the University campus. I googled the fires but only managed to find minimal information at first. Then, another message from the speaker asked international students to meet outside the Moadon (clubhouse) for a meeting at 12:30. We learned more information about the fires and signed in so International School staff could know we were present. In addition to the speaker inside the dorms, we were also reached out to by text via our Israeli phone numbers and Facebook.
After a few hours, it was decided it would be best for us to be evacuated. We quickly boarded busses and went to the Kiryat Haim community center. Upon arriving, the community center staff was already stationed there to sign us in, calm our nerves, and even provide us with coffee. Furthermore, members of the International School staff had given up time with their families and evacuated with us to the community center.
Spending Thanksgiving in the Kiryat Haim community center was so much fun. We got to have our delicious Thanksgiving dinner as planned, complete with turkey, green beans, and three different kinds of potatoes! Afterwards, we hung out, watched a movie, and sang karaoke. I can honestly say that if not for our evacuation to the community center, I probably wouldn’t have had as much fun. Because most International School students were there, I ended up hanging out with and befriending people I hadn’t had the chance to talk with previously. Additionally, we were provided with mattresses and blankets to make us as comfortable as possible.
The next morning, we were told that just to be safe, we were going to evacuate to Tel Aviv. Before leaving, we got to eat delicious pastries donated from a local bakery, as well as a filling lunch. Also, members of the International School staff were kind enough to make a list and go out and buy anything we needed (toothpaste, shampoo, towels, etc.). After that, we got back on the road towards Rehovot, a city south of Tel Aviv. There, the Weizmann Institute, a public research university, hosted us Friday night. The Weizmann Institute campus was sprawling and incredibly beautiful. We got to stay in really nice dorms with fresh sheets and towels. Additionally, the Institute arranged snacks for us when we arrived as well as dinner with a host family that night. It felt a bit like a group trip and less like an evacuation!
The next day some friends and I explored the grounds of the Weizmann Institute and the city of Rehovot. On the Weizmann campus we found and walked through an orchard with oranges, clementines, and limes. Afterwards, we had lunch at a cute café in the city. Later that day, we all met up again and were informed it would be safe to return to Haifa that night. To top the night off, we got to eat in the Weizmann Institute dining hall and hear the VP of the University of Haifa himself speak!
All in all, despite the dire situation, it was a very enjoyable weekend. I know that many others (especially those who lost their homes) were much less fortunate the past few days. I am therefore especially grateful to all who helped make my weekend safe, comfortable, and happy.
Atlanta, GA, USA