February 2017

This past November, large areas of Israel were devastated by consuming waves of fires, both rural and urban. Some of the fires occurred naturally; others were arson attacks. Many major cities were besieged. The largest fire occurred in Haifa, where over 500 apartments were destroyed, leaving 1,600 people homeless. 75,000 Haifa residents, about a quarter of the city’s population, were evacuated from 11 neighborhoods. Other major fires occurred in Zikhron Ya’akov, the Jerusalem area as well as smaller fires all across Israel and the West Bank. Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority reported that more than 20,000 dunams (4,900 acres) of forests, bushland and open space were burnt, the largest amount since the Mount Carmel forest fire in 2010.

While most of the fires were caused by weather conditions and negligence, some of the fires were caused by arsonists suspected of being nationally motivated Arabs. What was incredibly positive were the offers of help from many Western European nations and even some neighboring Arab countries with firefighting aircraft support.  Even the Palestinian Authority sent eight firefighting crews, four to the Haifa area and four to the Jerusalem area. Israel gladly accepted all their support. Now Israel’s task is to replant the thousands upon thousands of trees that were lost.

I was excited when our own Religious School teacher, Geri Segel, proposed the idea of purchasing 100 trees through the Jewish National Fund( JNF) to plant our own TBS forest to help replenish what was lost.  It’s is wonderful to hear of the great outpouring of support from the congregation for this project. By my last count, we are almost there, but there are more trees to go before our goal is reached by February 11, 2017–Tu B’Shevat!  I want to encourage you to take part and make a difference for Israel.

And finally, I’m planning on our upcoming October 2017 synagogue pilgrimage to Israel for the group to plant their own trees in honor of their trip in one of the areas hard hit by the fires. It is a wonderful way for us to physically leave our mark on the land we love.

To purchase a tree, please make out a check to Temple Beth Sholom for $10 per tree and mail it to the Religious School office. Let’s celebrate a new forest in Israel made possible by our TBS Kehilla.

Rabbi, Dr. Larry Bazer