It has been a very challenging weekend here in Israel, as fires have swept through the country. Some 20 arrests have been made as evidence is emerging that many of the fires were started deliberately by arsonists with a political agenda. The city of Haifa in northern Israel was badly affected, but fires raged throughout the whole country; around Jerusalem, along the coastal towns and also in the Palestinian territories. The hot, dry and windy weather has made the land like a powder keg ready to combust, and the fires spread quickly, irrespective of whether they were started intentionally or not.
But miraculously, not one life has been lost!
“When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, nor will the flame burn you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
“Black Friday” here in our scorched land had a rather different meaning to the shopping frenzy that happened in other countries. Over 60,000 people were evacuated in Haifa , and are only now returning to the charred remains of their homes. Some 600 houses have been damaged by the fire, many are uninhabitable and some are completely burned to the ground. Almost 200 have received medical treatment, mostly for smoke inhalation, but it is remarkable that no one was killed!
After the tragic loss of 44 people in the last forest fire on Mount Carmel six years ago, investments were made to be better prepared in the event of such a large scale disaster, but once again, Israel had a lot of international help coming to the rescue. Planes were sent from Europe and America, but also from their neighbours, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey. Even the Palestinian Authority sent four firefighting teams to assist Israel in our battle against the blaze – Israeli and Palestinian firefighters worked together, side by side, to save lives and quench the flames.
Moreover, there was much outcry from Arabs and Muslims against the arsonists, decrying them as “enemies of us all”. Like many Jewish Israelis, many Arab families too have opened up their homes to any who need a bed for the night as a result of the fire. The coldness of heart that would wantonly cause such destruction is in sharp contrast to the warmth and kindness shown by many others.
Now is a great opportunity for the body of Messiah to step up and serve in the community, and be a witness to those around them in need.
Almost as quickly as the firefighters sprang into action, local believers started to plan how they could best help in the crisis. A messianic hostel was made available to families who had to flee their homes, and care packages were furiously assembled in various messianic congregations. People offered themselves and their cars to give rides wherever was needed, and food and provisions were taken to those working around the clock to defeat the flames.
Although the fires are now under control, the hard work of restoration and recovery now begins. In times of need, Israelis are great at helping one another, and believers joined many other volunteers who were ready to do what they could. Working with the local municipality, collections are being made for those who have lost everything. One Messianic Jewish lady went back to her home which had been severely burned, to find everything destroyed except one cupboard… which contained all of her clothes and books. She and those with her could not understand how it had not been destroyed along with the rest of the furniture. It was as if God had preserved those precious items for her. Woven in amidst all the sadness and chaos, there are strands of hope and even wonder.
Yet again, enemies of Israel have tried to bring harm, and yet again God has stretched out his hand of protection, preserving each and every life from the flame. The God who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.