Kristine L Ming

Haifa fire victims face new challenge: Israeli bureaucracy

After the wave of fires that engulfed hundreds of Haifa residents’ apartments, fire victims still must overcome a complex Israeli bureaucracy in order to receive government reimbursement.

Haifa resident David Halilov, 60, had his apartment of 28 years burned to a crisp, he told The Jerusalem Post that he is still in the dark regarding government compensation. “My apartment has to be completely repaired. Who will take care of it? I don’t know. How much will they pay? I don’t know,” said Haliov, “They are keeping the cards close to their hearts and we don’t even know with whom to speak with and even when we speak to the Israel Tax Authority they give us answers like we are children.”

“The biggest challenge is to restore the situation and to help as much as possible the individuals who fled in mass,” Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “The problem is that the power in this respect lies in the hand of the government, which does not always, in my opinion cover all the damages,” Yahav said.

An estimated 175 buildings in Haifa where damaged in the blaze, 100 of them are now uninhabitable, leaving over 500 people without homes to return to.

While Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, approved an NIS 2,500 stipend, for those unable to return home due to fire damages, some in Haifa are having trouble obtaining the stipend.

David Halilov, is staying in Haifa-area hotel with his wife, unable to return home. As of Monday Halilov was unable to receive his NIS 2,500 stipend due to bureaucratic complications. “I went to the city hall, to register [for the stipend] and still they are telling me that I am not on list of people that are entitled,” said Halilov adding that he was told to wait 48 hours for a decision.

According to Yahav, Haifa fire victims who did not have private insurance are facing the challenge of receiving compensations and all victims face obstacles to receiving full compensation for all lost or damaged possessions. 

Yahav, is urging for the Knesset to pass a bill to ensure full compensation for fire victims. “The government has to take actions it is necessary to cover all the damages,” he said.

In response to the bureaucratic opaqueness a Haifa spokesman, whose garden was singed in the fire, said the municipality is in close contact with victims and connecting victims with legal council. “Tonight we arranged a meeting for people who can’t go back to their homes with lawyers and people that can guide the residents about their rights,” the spokesman said adding “many wake up in the morning and don’t know who to turn to.”

Nevertheless Halilov was not too optimistic. “Actually since the government took control I’m supposed to be optimistic,” he said, “but since it is the government of Israel that took control I am not that optimistic.”

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