And they came! They came from Greece and Cyprus, from Bulgaria and Romania, from the United States and Italy, from Egypt and Jordan and, miraculously, from the Palestine Authority.They came with fire trucks, with super-tankers, with planes loaded with chemicals to extinguish the wildfires and with fire-fighting personnel. Blessed are the bonds of those who help another in need.
More than 220 towns, villages and cities throughout our country have suffered devastation and destruction from the licking of the flames, blazes set mainly by Arab arsonists as punishment for our recent Muezzin Bill, meant to lessen the noise emanating from the mosques at early hours of pre-dawn.
Tens of thousands of our citizens are homeless and have lost memoirs and prized possessions of their lives. Thank God, however, that the lives themselves were spared. There were, thank God, no human fatalities.
Our Israeli police forces have arrested some dozen suspects of arson and have brought them for questioning. If, hopefully, they will be found guilty what punishment is suitable for them? What penalties can ever replace the loss of homes and prized possessions, the re-planting of trees and the clearing of our forests?
In the final line of his poem, “Trees,” Joyce Kilmer, an American young soldier and poet who was killed in battle during World War I ended it with a nostalgic note: “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”
In Israel, we have a holiday which commemorates the planting of trees. Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of the Trees (Rosh Hashanah l’ilyanot) celebrates the beauty of trees, life-giving and providing nourishment to the eyes and to the stomach.
Doubtlessly, the Keren Kayemet will begin a major campaign of fund-raising in order to restore what we have lost. It will be a fund to which each one of us must contribute. We need to demonstrate to the criminals among us and to those who pray for our elimination from our land that we cannot and will not be defeated. Not by the sword, not by the gun and not by blazing fire.
A Yiddish song that was popular in past generations, “Eli Eli” remarked “in fier und flam hot men uns gebrent…” in fire and flame were we burned. But the song concludes with the Jewish ultimate faith in a loving God who will help us to restore things once treasured and now lost to us.
All Israel can be proud of the blessed bonds of friendship which came from near and far to aid us in the time of our national tragedy. We are not alone. Other hearts responded to our sorrow and grief.
Would that it had been so in 1939 -1945!