After the fires

Be advised: I’m going Biblical.

It’s been a crazy week, with hundreds of fires and hundreds of destroyed homes leaving thousands homeless, not to mention the devastation to plant and animal life. Some of the fires were accidental, many intentional. Many leaders in the Arab community condemned these actions of senseless destruction, others offered their homes to welcome those who lost everything. The Palestinian Authority Fire Brigade came over to assist in the battle against the flames. Fighting Shoulder to shoulder with their Israeli counterparts to save this precious Land. There have been offers and assistance from neighboring countries and friends. We are not alone.

And then there is this:

This is footage of a man trying to light a brush fire in Begin forest. He was identified by local volunteers who called the police who called the fire department and the army. The fire was contained quickly, a disaster averted and the man was arrested when he returned to his West Bank village. Yes, he is a Palestinian Arab, no he does not represent his entire community, after all they live near this forest too.

Still, there is something deeply disturbing about a global movement that celebrates this kind of behavior. A movement also existing no doubt in this mans’ own circles to make him think this is a noble, just, heroic thing to do. The hashtag #IsraelBurning became the third most popular hashtag trending on twitter. How much hate can people feel towards Israel to wish this and feel joy in it? How brainwashed and delusional must a person be to celebrate the burning of a whole Land?

So if you belong to or support an organization claiming to be working towards “peace” and you attend a rally for “peace” and you hear chants like “with blood and fire we shall redeem you oh Palestine” know these are not just words. These chants are an agenda. And those that shout these words are not “Peace Activists” and they don’t stand for the oppressed and the disenfranchised. There is no “internsectionality” here. Just blind hate and evil. It’s time to choose a side.

The attempt to destroy the Land while combating the Jewish State is acutely profound. Excuse me if I go Biblical, but the Land has and always will be an integral part of being Jewish. The very definition of Judaism is intrinsically linked to the Land. The Covenant of God and Abraham and his descendants is linked to the Land. The Land has agency, it is an active participant in this covenant. The entire Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament, the foundation of Western Civilization whether you believe in it or not, to the cynics among you…) is written as one huge play that starts with the creation and promise for the Land, the spiritual and physical conquest of the Land, the expulsion from and ultimately the return to the Land. The Zionist movement, which was established as an essentially (sometimes radically) secular movement, is a result of this bond. Although secular Zionism has taken God out of the equation the tri-covenant: (Jewish)Values-Peoplehood-Land remains intact. Judaism as a faith, a culture, a civilization is fundamentally linked to the Land. Which is why the Zionist movement has succeeded in turning a wasteland, hardly habitable for hundreds of years, ridden with malaria, cholera, typhus and dysentery into a flourishing garden with advanced cities, agriculture and forests. Lots of forests.

Please do not misunderstand me. Jews were never alone in this Land. There had always been other peoples, ethnic groups and foreigners living among them. A quick look at the map of the world will suffice to understand this is a land of transition between all ancient and contemporary empires. It is incumbent upon us to find a way to live peacefully together, “Turn from evil and do good, Seek peace and pursue it…” [Psalms 34; 14] . Indeed, we are required (even for those of us who are not religious) as a historical responsibility of our heritage to do so as part of the very same covenant that connects us to this Land. “One law you shall have for you and the foreigners among you…” yet another revolutionary idea at the time, that is today the norm in the Western world. [Exodus 12; 49 Leviticus 19;34 Numbers 15; 14-16 to name a few]. And most importantly at the end of the day this Land can be a beacon of light to the world, a Land of Peace to all nations. “… for my house shall be called an house of prayer for all nations” [Isaiah 56,7]

But not for those who try to burn it.

Oh, by the way, the man in this video was trying to light the Begin Forest on fire, where my family and I live. The volunteers from our town, together with the police and border patrol stopped two others like him in the past two weeks. 3 attempts were made to burn us. Forgive me if I am taking this personally, our mountain, our trees, our wild flowers, our homes, our children, MY children… would burn to ashes if these men and their supporters worldwide had their way. But they won’t. We will live and thrive and build and create, and strive for peace. That’s what we’ve always done and that’s what we will always do, also now after these devastating fires. And If you have a problem with Jews thriving in their Land, prepare for a lifetime of disappointment.

The Lord will surely comfort Zion
and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

Isaiah 51,3

About the Author
Uri Goldflam is a licensed Tour Guide in Israel, popular lecturer and educational consultant with a wide range of local and visiting groups. Most recently he was the Director of Development for the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and formerly the Director of the Intl. School at IDC Herzliya.