‘There is no doubt that this is one of the most extreme events we’ve experienced at this time of year’ says meteorological service official, as towns reach hottest recorded June days

Adi Hashmonai Nati Yefet Ran Shimoni

Jun 2, 2023

About 160 wildfires broke out in Israel on Friday amid extremely hot and dry weather conditions. No injuries have been reported thus far due to the wildfires, but three people were in moderate condition after suffering from heat stroke, the Magen David Adom rescue service said.

According to the Israel Meteorological Service, some parts of the country have registered their highest temperatures on record for the month of June. Beit Dagan reached a temperature of 43.8 degrees Celsius (110.84 degrees Fahrenheit), and Kibbutz Negba hit 43.7 degrees (110.66 Fahrenheit). 

“There is no doubt that this is one of the most extreme events we’ve experienced at this time of year in comparison to past years,” said Dr. Amit Savir, who manages the service’s forecasting department.

Due to a fire in the Kerem Maharal forest area in northern Israel, police closed part of Route 4 to traffic in both directions, and people were evacuated from the area. A high-tension wire was damaged by the blaze, cutting the power supply in the area. The National Fire and Rescue Authority said that 24 teams are working at the scene to keep the blaze from expanding and reigniting.

Another fire in the central Israeli town of Beit Hanan damaged several cars and horse stables. Six firefighting planes and 21 teams are working to quell the blaze. The authority said that there is a risk to residential homes and additional stables. In Palmachim in central Israel, 15 firefighting teams and four aircraft are working to put out a wildfire in an open area.

Parts of Route 446 are also closed due to bushfires. Another wildfire near Tal Shahar, in central Israel, is being battled by six firefighting teams and three aircraft. The fire authority reported additional blazes in the Be’er Sheva, Rahat and Be’er Tuvia area.

According to the Israel Meteorological Service, the combination of the hot and dry conditions, known in Hebrew as sharav, poses a major risk of wildfires. According to Dr. Savir, this sharav is unique not only in its extreme, unseasonable heat, but also in its timing in reaching the region. 

“The later a sharav low pressure system arrives in the season, the greater the intensity of the hot air it brings us,” he explained. The weather system “Arrived from North Africa, where the desert is already hotter than during the previous spring months, the sun’s rays are stronger, and the earth is hotter.”