Brush fires rage through the country and hundreds suffer from heat-related maladies as a massive, record-breaking heat wave reaches its peak, with temperatures shooting up mercilessly from north to south.
The brutal heat wave, which began on Sunday, is expected to continue through the beginning of the week. Sunday saw temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the country. The coastal city of Eilat, located at Israel’s southernmost point, experienced record-breaking temperatures of 46 degrees Celsius (114.8 degrees Fahrenheit).
Even Jerusalem, generally cooler at its higher elevation, reached 37.1 degrees Celsius (98.8 degrees Fahrenheit).
On Monday, temperatures could hit a scorching 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in the eastern part of the country, Ynet reported.
At least 442 people have been treated for heat-related medical issues. A 30-year-old man from Lod was in serious condition after losing consciousness due to heat stroke.
Approximately 400 fires broke out on Sunday as a result of the unusually hot and dry conditions. Firefighters battled flames throughout the country, including in Tel Aviv, in the Beit Shemesh area, near the Sea of Galilee, and in Haifa, leading to some evacuations. While there were no serious injuries, the fires caused extensive damage to structures and woods.
The fires coincided with a rise in arson attacks by terrorists. A large fire near Jerusalem was suspected to be the result of a firebomb thrown from the Shuafat Palestinian refugee camp.
On Monday, Israel’s Fire and Rescue Commissioner issued an emergency edict forbidding the lighting of campfires throughout the country under penalty of law.
The heat wave follows Israel’s hottest April in 130 years. While these types of temperatures are not unusual for May, the duration of the heat wave is not normal, meteorologist Dr. Baruch Ziv told Ynet, explaining that the country is at the peak of an eight-day trend.
The heat wave had an unexpected positive consequence for Israel: events planned for Nakba (“catastrophe”) Day, a Palestinian “holiday” which essentially mourns the founding of the state of Israel and emphasizes the Palestinian “right of return”, fizzled out under the weight of the oppressive temperatures.
The Jerusalem Post reported that Nakba Day in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem had “come and gone without incident”, with citizens and journalists alike simply forgetting the date of the annual violent protests and riots. An official protest in Bethlehem’s town square died out by mid-afternoon as the small crowd escaped the heat.