A tale of two fires...

 Our menorahs last year... this year I remembered to put down foil first! 

Sorry I didn't post last week-- I hope I didn't make too many people worry that I was somehow injured in the Carmel fire. We could see the smoke from the forest fire on the Carmel mountain from our apartment, but we weren't personally impacted beyond spending way too much time watching TV news and calling up friends close to the affected areas to see if they needed to be hosted.

Still, the disaster hit close to home, literally. My husband ended up riding his scooter through the thick smoke of a smaller fire lit by arsonists. On the first day of the fire, he rode the train back from work with the hysterical girlfriend of a rescue worker and some shell-shocked prison guards who weren't sure which of their colleagues were among the 40 killed as they evacuated prisoners from a prison on the Carmel. His cousin worked all night for days in a row on security at the Haifa University central command, leaving his wife to take care of their newborn daughter alone. Ordinary life came to a pause as we all watched the smoke rise off the Carmel mountain and mourned both the devastating deaths of more than 40 victims-- who died after protecting and evacuating others-- and the loss of a million trees in a country in which every tree ekes out a dusty, precious existence.

We lit Chanukah candles every night, but somehow posting about the grease-fest of Chanukah or the way Menta magazine takes all the fun out of 500-calorie Sufganiot didn't seem so appropriate just then. (Maybe tomorrow. :) Celebrating the persistence of flames burning for 8 days and 8 nights seemed inadvisable. (An unfortunate ad surrounding the Jerusalem Post coverage of the Carmel disaster read "Keep the flame of the Jewish people burning." Um, no, we're trying to put it out. Today, I notice that this tag-line finally changed to "A flame of resolve in the face of the inferno"... whatever that means.)

Finally, on Sunday night, it rained. Our first real rain of the year, our first rain that did more than dampen the dust floating in the air and paste it to our car's roof. And thanks to the supertanker from Russia, the Bulgarian firemen, the Turkish planes and-- in a bit of Chanukah irony-- firefighting assistance from the Greeks, the fire went out. And now we can think, again, about inviting friends over for jelly donuts (sufganiot) and candle lighting, of going out to the Chag HaChagim holiday celebration in Haifa, and of perhaps buying better housing insurance or taking the claims that Israel is unprepared to face a serious earthquake (something pundits have also been saying for years) seriously.

On the plus side, I now know how to say "firemen" (caba'im) and prison guards (soharim), that the same verb we use for clearing a table ("lefanot") also means "evacuation," and that the same word we use for the flames on the burner on my stove ("lehavot") can refer to 30 meter high flames. "Burn" (lesaref) has been transformed into the noun, srefah. On Israeli TV, the fire became simply known as "the Disaster on the Carmel": "ha'Ason baCarmel."

I hope everyone reading this blog is safe. Happy Chanukah! Were you following the disaster? Did it affect you in any way?


  1. I am so happy all is well with you as we continue to pray for the victims of all this.

  2. Good to hear that you and your family are alright. Part of my job is keeping tabs on Israel and Jewish news, so I've been following the fire pretty closely. At first, I didn't realize the scope of the disaster. Then I heard about the 40 prison guards, and the picture became much more cloudy. I've been thinking a lot about the situation, and it seems similar to what happened in the North in 2006, when the Second Lebanon War made people and the government realize that the bomb shelters were not kept-up, and many people had to spend days on end in hovels that were not fit to be lived in. Since then, the shelters have been fixed up -- and Israel's North is now ready. Here's hoping the firefighters and other emergency personnel don't have to fight/beg for resources any more.

  3. Yes, this will probably be a wake-up call to prepare a better defence against such a thing.

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