At least 42 people have died. 25,000 were evacuated. Numerous homes were lost and more than 12,500 acres of forests destroyed. Our first care and response is for the people who are the victims of this fire. This is our outreach toward all victims whenever troubling circumstances capture our attention.
It was just a couple of weeks ago that I visited in the area of Northern Israel devastated by the recent fire. My Maryland Clergy Initiative travel partners and I visited the Yemin Orde Youth Village, a home for 500 immigrant, disadvantaged, and at-risk children and youth that was seriously damaged during the fire. We appreciated the natural beauty and terrain of Israel’s northwest. It will take many years for the land to regenerate.
In this case, we have a second care. Our relationship to Israel is also about the land. Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, is a sacred symbol of Jewish history and destiny. The land of Israel plays a central role in our people’s history, culture, and religion.
For Judaism, life in “the promised land” carries with it moral expectations. For Zionism, a Jewish return to the land represents historical continuity and loyalty to Jewish culture. Jews have always considered their status as being “in” or “out” of the land. In exile and Diaspora, focus on the land of Israel is a measure of Jewish meaning and existence.
The Ethical Monotheism in which we believe emerges from Abram’s journey “to the land that I will show you,” as in the Book of Genesis God commands Abram to leave his home and birthplace behind. At the conclusion of every Seder celebration we declare the same hope of our ancestors, “Next Year in Jerusalem.”
During the just completed eight days of Hanukkah we remembered historical events from 165 BCE that took place during Second Temple days in Jerusalem. “For Torah comes forth out of Zion,” we recite each time we open the Holy Ark in synagogue. It was in the very Carmel Mountains near Haifa that the prophet Elijah discovered the still soft voice of God when we sought to bolster his people’s faith and fortitude.
Everywhere in the land of Israel remnants of Biblical and Jewish history remind us of our people’s relationship to that special land over thousands of years. Our people’s story and history are rooted in the land of Israel long before the State of Israel’s establishment in 1948.
I share this in order to provide some context. Though this fire is a most serious situation for Israel, and especially for those affected by it, in the world there have been larger natural disasters with greater need for humanitarian aid. Each of us does our best to respond at all times to every situation.
The Carmel Mountain fire is a different circumstance. People need our help, to be sure. And they are receiving it. But the land of our people also needs our help, which means we need to be reminded why.
It you wish to help us help others and help the land through Chizuk Amuno, please send checks payable to Chizuk Amuno Congregation and mark them for “Israel Fire Relief.” Thank you very much.
You may wish to take note of these links.
The first is to information about the Jewish National Fund’s response.
The second is about the Yemin Orde Youth Village.
Many worthwhile organizations are turning to members of the Jewish community and asking for help, in particular, we support the emergency fire relief campaigns being conducted by the Conservative/Masorti Movement (http://masorti.org/) in Israel and The ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore (http://www.theassociated.org).