Fires Burning

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, November 28, 2016

Wild Fires in Israel
(Courtesy of Rabbi Oshrat Morag)

As I write this message, fires continue to rage across the land of Israel. An estimated 110 fires have forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate their homes and more than 1,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed. Tens of thousands of families have been displaced as they have seen their homes and neighborhoods destroyed, and many are suffering from smoke inhalation. Most of those evacuated are in the Haifa area. Investigators suspect that some of the fires may be due to arson, deliberately set, and considered to be acts of terror. The unusually dry weather and high winds caused the fires to spread more rapidly and Israel has called on help from the international community. The US has sent a supertanker, and the Palestinian Authority is sending firefighters and fire trucks to battle the blazes.

Help has also arrived from Turkey, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Russia and Cyprus. The five days of fires have burned more than 5,000 acres of forest, brush land and other open space, according to the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Israel’s Arab and Bedouin communities have opened their homes to welcome people in need of temporary shelter.

My friend, Rabbi Oshrat Morag, rabbi at Reform congregation Kehillat Or Hadash in Haifa, reports that the congregation’s building has sustained damage. She writes: “It was shocking to see my city burning. Buildings in flames, the Carmel Mountain blackened and the sky grey from smoke. It is striking to see the helplessness of humanity facing nature’s rage, and it left me speechless.My young daughter’s gaze said it all: ‘Mommy what will become of us?!? “I hugged my four children as I told them: ‘We shall overcome. Let us pray that the rains will wash the black and bring renewed growth, fresh foliage and new life will arise from this pain and sorrow. “Tongues of fire also lapped the edges of our humble sanctuary. The surroundings blackened, and all entrances were blocked. My family, among many of my community members had to evacuate from their homes. For 24 hours, we were not sure whether we would have a home to return to. Now we all have to roll up our sleeves in order to rebuild the spirits of our members and start healing our emotional, as well as physical, wounds that the fire left on our souls and our building.”

At the same time that we have heard the news of these devastating fires, we are also seeing reports of attacks of hatred being launched on Reform and Conservative synagogues. Reform congregation Kehillat Ra’anan in Ra’anana found hateful messages spray-painted on their synagogue, calling for the death of Rabbi Rick Jacobs – the head of the Union for Reform Judaism, Gilad Kariv – head of the Israel Movement for Reform Judaism, and Anat Hoffman- the head of both Women of the Wall and the Israel Religious Action Center. These messages come from far right Jewish extremist groups who oppose continually equal rights for Reform and Conservative Judaism in Israel.

Threats against Reform Jewish Leaders

Threats against Reform Jewish Leaders

We in the Canadian Reform movement must continue our support for our colleagues in Israel and the growing number of Israelis who want to practice liberal Judaism in Israel as we send love and strength to all in Israel at this difficult time. Our Israeli colleagues and friends continue to need our constant support.

To support the Israel Reform movement, I encourage you to join, donations may also be earmarked to help rebuild Kehillat Or Hadash in Haifa. More information and how to support the struggle for egalitarian prayer at the Kotel can be found at and to send support to aid those affected by the fires go to


Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

Filed under: Rabbi's Message

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