Dec. 10, 2010
The fire happened not far from IMPJ Congregation Or Hadash. Read a letter from Rabbi Edgar Nof, as he shares his perspective on the tragedy. Support the IMPJ and congregations like Or Hadash by continuing to contribute to ARZA, at times of trouble, and throughout the year.
I was all prepared to tell you about the numerous beautiful Chanuka celebrations I participated in, so far I helped in the candle-lighting ceremony on more than 25 occasions with more than 2000 participants in the city of haifa. But as you know, at noon yesterday (Thursday), an incredibly large fire was started in the Carmel forest and is still burning out of control. It's the worst fire in Israel's history, 41 people, mostly rescue workers, have died and there are many wounded people whose recovery we pray for.
About 20 000 have been evacuated from their homes. The sad irony is that the high school where I lit candles with the teachers and students at noon, Ironi Gimmel (3rd municipal school) was converted into a shelter for students from Haifa University who were evacuated a couple of hours later. The family from Kibbutz Beit Oren preparing for a bar mitzva next month came to Or Hadash for a lesson and then had no home to return to, as the entire kibbutz was burned to the ground yesterday. Our overseas coordinator, Nofi, lives in Ussefiye and is still at home waiting for evacuation instructions. She can't leave yet as the roads are blocked to allow rescue workers' access. Several employees, aides in our preschools, live in Tirat HaCarmel, which is being evacuated as the firefighters are battling encroachment house by house. Members of our congregation living in the Denia neighborhood of Haifa were evacuated from their homes in the middle of last night. Many classmates of my children come from affected areas: Daliyat Al Carmel, Denia, and Tirat HaCarmel.
For better or worse, at Or Hadash we have experience dealing with emergency situations. We have learned from the intifada to the Second Lebanon War to organize our members: we reach out to all of our members and to the families of our preschool students. We are in touch with municipal authorities: Ami Perelman, Yuri Kliegerman and I have been in contact with Aviva Kaduri, the head of volunteeer service of the welfare authorities, and we have offered to convert Or Hadash into a temporary evacuation center. Additionally, many member families are willing to open their hearts and homes to evacuees. We learned that the city has designated two high schools, Ironi Gimmel and Ironi Hey (3rd and 5th municipal school), plus the Beit Abba Khoushy community center for the same purpose, and that they are bigger and further away from the fire than Or Hadash. Or Hadash is within a 10 mile radius of the fire.
Yesterday, from the window in our house we could see the fire and the heavy smoke. When I took two of my kids, Talia and Ariel, to the supermarket, we could see the fire from the road. That was a very scary experience. Today on my way to Or Hadash I saw a heavy cloud hanging over the whole Haifa area. We are hoping and praying that with international help the situation will soon be under control. We are determined to have tonight's Erev Shabbat service as planned.
I want to thank all of our friends who have called and written from overseas and in Israel, expressing your support. We appreciate each phone call and email. I apologize in advance for not responding to each communication personally until Nofi returns to work, we pray that her house will be saved.
Rabbi Edgar Nof
Congregation Or Hadash