After three days, firefighters are still struggling to extinguish the fires surrounding Jerusalem. After believing they had brought the fire under control on Sunday, high winds stymied firefighters, rekindling the blaze.
Hundreds of firefighter comprising at least 88 firefighting teams and ten firefighting aircraft were deployed to help with the effort.
Fire and Rescue official Niso Guetta told Army Radio that the fire is still burning at an estimated 100 hotspots.
“Toward the night the fire subsided, but there are still lots of hotspots near communities,” he said. “We are deployed in many areas because the winds could bring the fire to new places.”
KKL-JNF Northern Region director Omri Bone explained how these hotspots can be problematic.
“We were close to fully putting it out, and one small hotspot we didn’t manage to reach in time is the one that breached our lines and created a new firestorm,” Bone, told the Walla news site. “I expect there to be more renewed fires we will have to deal with, in hopes that this time we will manage to fully extinguish the fire before the winds start in the afternoon.”
Firefighters focused their efforts to ensure that the fire did not approach the Hadassah-University Medical Center, Ein Kerem. Army Radio reporting that officials are concerned that they would be unable to safely evacuate the entire hospital.
“A few hours ago, Ein Kerem was in danger. We posted 15 firetrucks there, commanded by an officer of deputy commissioner rank [the second-highest rank in the rescue services], because it’s a difficult site to evacuate,” Fire and Rescue Commissioner Dedi Simchi told reporters.
The Environmental Protection Ministry warned of high levels of air pollution in the area, recommending that cardio-respiratory patients, the elderly, children, and pregnant women avoid being outside unnecessarily. It was also recommended that all people reduce outdoor physical activity, close windows and turn on air conditioners.
So far, the fires have destroyed about 5,000 acres of forest, making it one of the largest in Israel’s history and the largest in history to threaten the capital. 2,000 residents were evacuated from their homes and the Israeli government has asked for help from Greece, Cyprus, Italy, France, and other Mediterranean countries. Israel accepted Turkey’s offer to send a firefighting plane.
Authorities are still investigating the cause but they have already determined that it was “definitely caused by man.”
“There was no lightning in Israel today. The fires were a human act. We don’t know yet if it was arson or negligence.”
“After the flames are out we will think about rehabilitation,” said Bone, the KKL-JNF official. “The green look can be reached within a few years, but full rehabilitation will take decades. When old forests burn, natural rehabilitation is preferable, but when there are cases where renewal is insufficient over a large area, we intervene and plant [trees].”
However, Bone was optimistic.
“We are adopting an approach that sees any disaster as an opportunity for change and improvement for our visitors,” he said. “Eleven years after the Carmel fire, most places have young trees that are one or two meters high. They don’t look like a forest, they don’t provide shade, but we are patient.”
Rabbi Kahana: The enemy within
Rabbi Nachman Kahana noted that fire was the element used by the Romans to destroy Jerusalem.
“There is no question that these fires are caused by the Arabs,” Rabbi Kahana told Israel365 News. “They hate the Jews but we see that they also hate the land. With one match, an Arab can be a hero, destroying an entire forest and threatening an entire city. A normal person would not do this but the Arabs have it as part of their nature.”
The rabbi cited the description of Ishmael, the father of the Arab nation, in Genesis:
He shall be a wild ass of a man; His hand against everyone, And everyone’s hand against him; He shall dwell alongside of all his kinsmen.” Genesis 16:12
“Israel needs to wake up to the undeniable fact that we have an enemy in our midst,” Rabbi Kahana said. “Anyone caught setting a fire should receive a mandatory life in prison since it was intended to kill people. Otherwise, there is no reason for this to stop.”
Rabbi Lazar Brody, who advocates for a spiritually and physically healthy approach to life on his new website, emphasized that the fire threatening Jerusalem was, like everything else in life, divinely originated.
“Jerusalem was in the time of the Romans burned because of hatred between Jews, Rabbi Brody said. “The message today is clear as a bell. There is so much anger and hatred in Israel, most of it over politics, with people running after the politicians. But that is stupid.”
Rabbi Brody brought a Midrash that described the situation.
“If you throw a rock at a dog, the dog will go crazy running after the rock,” Rabbi Brody explained. “The rock isn’t to blame but the dog is too stupid to know that.”
The rabbi applied the Midrash to current events.
“People yell that Bennett did something or some other politician did something,” Rabbi Brody said. “In truth, they can’t do anything. God alone does and will do. And look what Hashem did in our government. Five elections and we end up with a prime minister who won with five percent of the vote. That is a miracle. No man could have made this happen.”
“We have the walls of Jerusalem burning again because of hatred inside Israel, one faction against each other and arguments within factions. Israel is full of division. Hashem is hitting us over the head to show us what the lack of unity can do.”
“Everyone has religion but they don’t have Emunah (faith),” Rabbi Brody said. “They can’t see that everything is the hand of God.”