By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Here are some “explanations” – in no particular order of improbability – of the fires that raged in Israel in the last few days, devastated thousands of acres of land, destroyed many homes and other places of human habitation, injured a large number of people – some seriously but, as far as we’re told, mercifully none fatally – and shocked the country to its core:
*Divine punishment for the threat of destroying Jewish settlers’ homes built illegally in the West Bank on land privately owned by Palestinians.
*Divine punishment for the draft law currently before the Knesset to ban early morning wake-up calls to prayer from muezzins that interrupt the sleep of some Jews.
*Though strong winds and very dry air had their share, perhaps the main reason for the fires are acts of arson by Palestinians. Messages on Facebook and comments in the Arab press celebrating the disaster in Israel support this view, even though the Palestinian Authority sent fire fighters and equipment to help Israel. Several Israeli Arabs have been detained; some are due to appear in court shortly. More arrests are expected.
*The fact that some fires took place in Arab towns and villages in Israel and in the Palestinian Territory in the West Bank suggests that Jewish extremists may also have had their hands in the arson epidemic. After all, some mosques had been torched earlier by Jews. We’re not told about Jews being retained under suspicion of arson.
*The rapid spread of the fire was due to the meagre resources that Israeli authorities had allocated to prevent them. The country has had no fire chief for several months and the Ministry of Interior seems to have been inadequate to deal with it; the authority has now been shifted to the Ministry of Internal Security.
*Making much of arson is thus yet another smokescreen initiated by politicians in power. Israel suffered a devastating fire with many deaths some six years ago. The suspicion is that not enough has been learnt from it to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Without the aid that came from many neighbouring countries the outcome would have been even more tragic.
Tell me which of the above theories you believe to be most likely and I’ll tell you which political party in Israel you support. The election of Donald Trump has formally inaugurated the era of post-truth: it no longer matters how things really are; what counts is what you believe them to be.
Even those committed to Truth (with a capital T) don’t seem to know how the fires spread so rapidly and so ferociously in different parts of the country. Perhaps we’ll find out in due course. But more important: will the authorities learn this time and take the necessary measures to prevent such things in the future? The fire will cost Israel hundreds of millions of shekels which the insurance companies won’t be able to pay, so it’ll be up to the government.
If the above seems confused it’s because it reflects the thoughts and feelings of many of us. Though it seems like “business as usual” in Israel today, the country is really in shock and the long-term consequences cannot be foreseen at this stage.