My country is burning. It is ablaze from the center of the country to the north. As of today some six towns and villages have swallowed flames from the fires of hate.
In the beautiful town of Zichron Ya’akov ten homes were destroyed, three thousand residents were evacuated and several were treated in the local hospital for smoke inhalation.
Zichron Ya’akov, thirty-six kilometers from the city of Haifa, should be celebrating its 134th birthday next month. In December 1882 one hundred young Jewish chalutzim (pioneers) from Romania, members of the Chovavei Tzion movement, purchased land from the Ottoman regime to establish an agricultural settlement.
In 1883 the French-Jewish philanthropist, Baron Edmond de Rothschild became the patron of the settlement and in 1885 he opened the first winery in Palestine, the Carmel Winery. He sent experts and vinoculturists from France to teach the young pioneers how to grow the grapes and how to produce and bottle fine wines which were shipped abroad.
The settlement grew and thrived. It achieved a kind of fame during World War I for establishing the Nili spy ring, led by Sarah and her brother Aaron Aaaronson, a renowned botanist, whose objective was to provide information to the offshore British troops of the location and positions of the Turkish military forces.
Zichron Ya’akov is a very popular tourist center renowned for its fresh air, beautiful gardens and quaint homes and a multitude of cafes. Visitors are able to tour the town and view the original layout of the first settlement as it was in the 19th century.
Local Arabs generally got along peacefully with their Jewish neighbors although there were skirmishes from time to time, particularly from 1920 due to incitement against the Zionist colonies by Haj Amin al-Husseini, the pro-Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
The fires of hate are so-called because police authorities believe that they were set by Arab arsonists and are “nationalistically motivated arson attacks”. A French newspaper agreed. “La police israelienne croit que les feux sont l’oeuvre d’incendaires arabes”.
The flames have engulfed at least six town and villages from Zichron Ya’akov to Hadera, Lachish, Nesher and Kfar Vradim in the north and to the village of Nataf in the Jerusalem area and all the way to the Galilee.
30 fire-fighting teams are aided by 12 military fire-fighting units and 4 planes in an effort to contain and extinguish the burning blazes. The dry land and the fierce winds make it very difficult and Israel has requested aid from neighboring Cyprus, Greece and even Croatia to send planes equipped to fight fires.
It is probable that the arsonists may never be caught. They are rejoicing in their disgusting work not only of spreading flames but of spreading hatred. Eventually the blazing fires will be extinguished but the hate will not.