Since April, Israel has been sweltering under oppressive heat with most days reaching temperatures from 86 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Amidst the scorching temperatures, forest fires have repeatedly ignited all the way from Israel’s most northern locations to her most southern cities, keeping firefighting crews very busy.
No less than 55 forested areas have been burned in Israel since April. Most of these have been caused by the harsh temperatures igniting dried-out forests. A few were caused by human error and carelessness, and others are being investigated as possible Arab terror against the state.
Some of the major brush fires which erupted includes the northern Biblical cities of Megiddo, Mount Carmel and Tiberias, Haifa and Acre. Fires shut down Route 444 in central Israel. In Israel’s southern Negev town of Netivot, a forest fire broke out.
Throughout the holy city of Jerusalem, fires forced various neighborhoods to be evacuated including the north-east Ramot area, the south west neighborhood of Gilo as well as the northern areas of Givat Shaul, Har Nof and Mevasseret Zion. These fires caused the main artery from Tel Aviv into Jerusalem, Route 1 to shut down.
For the first round of Jerusalem blazes, eighteen fire-fighting and rescue teams and four water-dropping air teams were called in. Some 25 fire trucks and eight fire-fighting aircrafts were needed to deal with the second round of fires.
Even though firefighting aircrafts and dozens of fire trucks have regularly been on the move to keep control of the situation, fires have caused disruptions throughout Israel. Thousands from north to south have been evacuated from their homes until fires are under control. Blazes have spread near train tracks and highways, causing closures of both for periods of time. National parks and nature preserves have been cleared of visitors as flames creep closer to those areas.
Hot and dry conditions (referred to as “sharav” in Hebrew) have been plaguing the country almost continuously for the past four months. Though sharav conditions starting in May are not unusual, the Meteorological Service said that it is very unusual to have this situation last so long. This occurs perhaps once every 10 to 12 years.
This year, the heatwave arrived early. April reached the hottest temperatures in 130 years. Hundreds of citizens have suffered heat stroke, dehydration and smoke inhalation from the rampant forest fires.
“Every tree in the Holy Land is a testament to God’s prophecies fulfilled,” said Rabbi Tuly Weisz, founder of Israel365 and editor of The Israel Bible, to Breaking Israel News. “Seeing thousands of trees burned is heartbreaking.”
Nearly all of the trees in Israel have been planted through the miracle of the Jewish people returning to the land and generations of donors funding her reforestation. For 2,000 years the land refused to flourish as the prophets had declared. The land laid fallow until the Jewish people were returned to her midst.
Mark Twain’s testament to the barrenness of the land in 1867 is often quoted as a proof to this reality, “A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds…hardly a tree or shrub anywhere.”
“All year round, those who love the Holy Land plant trees to join in fulfilling God’s will, as it says in Amos 9:14, ‘I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, And they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, And make gardens and eat their fruit,’” continued Rabbi Weisz. “Unfortunately, there are terrorist who seek to destroy the land while we seek to build it.”
“There isn’t much that the average person can do to stop fires caused by the heatwave or Arab terror,” noted Rabbi Weisz to Breaking Israel News. “However, what we can do is replenish what has been lost.”
To that end, Israel365 raises funds to replenish and replant Israel’s forests. To date, supporters have planted thousands of trees in the Holy Land. “Keeping Israel alive and flourishing is truly a fulfillment of God’s will,” expressed Rabbi Weisz. “We are so blessed to be living in these days where we can partner with the prophets and bring their words to fruition.”
To plant a tree in Israel, click here.