Once again, it’s time to hear from our sister in Jerusalem about what she is witnessing there as a believer in Yeshua. Put your prayer shawls on and pray for Israel and Sister J. Now here she is —
BELOVED Sisters and Brothers in the SON whom we love together, and so also love one another, may you have HIS SHALOM, HIS blessing and HIS encouragement in The Name of our Lord Yeshua, Jesus Christ. May HE ALONE be glorified and may you be blessed.
It was interesting that our Grandbaby was born during the time of such fires (it is the fire of GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT that we need). I wrote to you during the first few days of the fires and thankfully today seems to signal the end as we have a much needed, drenching RAIN. The issues of the fires, however, were big in many ways. I had a chart released by the government of the estimated numbers, which I wanted to send out as I have seen some greatly inflated numbers and some ridiculously low ones, but alas, I seem to have lost them. This is the most accurate information I am able to glean at this moment from different sources:
On 22 November (actually the first ones began on the 18th) a wave of fires (both wildfires and urban fires) began in Israel from south as far as the Dead Sea area to Nahariya. Some of the fires occurred naturally; others were arson attacks. On 28 November, after 8 days, the firefighting services announced that the emergency condition was under control, after firefighters fought 1,773, of them at least 39 were major fires that required at least ten crews or more. The largest fire occurred in Haifa, where 527 apartments were destroyed completely 77 buildings, leaving 1,600 people homeless. 75,000 residents, about a quarter of the city’s population, were evacuated from 11 neighborhoods. Other major fires occurred in Zikhron Ya’akov, Jerusalem area as well as smaller fires all across Israel and the West Bank. Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority reported that more than 20,000 dunams (4,900 acres) of forests, brush land and open space were burnt, the largest amount since the Mount Carmel forest fire (2010).
While most of the fires were caused by weather conditions and negligence, some of the fires were caused by arsonists suspected of being nationally motivated Arabs. Two Arab citizens of Israel confessed they deliberately set up fires. At least 35 people were arrested on suspicion of setting fires or inciting to do so. More than 15 were citizens of the Palestinian Authority and at least 10 were Arab citizens of Israel. Officials in Israel has stated that the deliberate setting of fires is a form of terrorism. As of 28 November, at least 25 cases of fires were caused by suspected arsons.
The battle to push back the flames marked among the most difficult operations ever undertaken by Israel’s firefighters. Some 2,000 firefighters battled the fires since Tuesday, many of them working in grueling 24-hour shifts alongside 450 soldiers from the Home Front Command and 69 Cypriot firefighters. In a rare move, the Palestinian Authority also sent fire crews to help. Fourteen planes from Israel’s firefighting squadron, aided by at least 19 additional planes supplied by ten other nations, carried out some 670 sorties dropping more than 1.62 million liters of liquid and foam over fire-struck areas. Russia and Turkey joined Greece, Italy, Croatia and Cyprus and the US in sending volunteers. (others too. I am sorry to have lost the list so soon. Even Kazakhstan offered assistance and fire fighters from the Palestinian Authority took part) In total, over 20,000 police officers took part in operations across the country, police said Tuesday.
I remember reading about the great Chicago fire, the day San Francisco burned, and seeing films of major cities on fire, but it was quite a chill to see Haifa, our largest Northern city up in flames and to watch other smaller villages completely burned to the ground.
As usual, Israel is at her best when there are needs and doors opened up, families drew one another in, needs were met with open arms, but it remains to us believers to pray for the many who came out with thankfully their lives but nothing else. One Holocaust survivor’s apartment was destroyed. There are many scars that need the touch of God. I have no doubt that some of you will pray.
But I have two anecdotal stories to share that you won’t read in other places:
Last Monday I went to work and there was a very strong smell of gas in the office when I entered. I searched and found nothing. We HAVE no gas in the office, but perhaps it was from another apartment. Now kicks in my immigrant mentality. I had NO idea what to do about it but to pray and to commit it to The Lord. Who do I call and what do I say? I didn’t know. So I also prayed that if I were in danger some passerby would smell it and know what to do.
About 40 minutes later Mali came to work. “WHAT’S THAT SMELL! GAS!” she yelled as I nodded my head. “DID YOU CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT?” she yelled in a panic.
“Nope. I don’t know how to do it, and they are so busy with all of the fires….” I answered honestly.
She threw her hands in the air and then ran to call them. I paid close attention knowing that now I could do this if it happened again within my memory-bank period. Then she ran around looking for the source. Finally she waited outside to direct the firemen to us murmuring, “What’s taking them so long!”
JUST as we heard the sirens, Mali looked up and noticed something dripping from our (honestly) antique iron door locks. She reached up and dabbed her finger in it and sniffed. Then she turned red. “Oh NO! False alarm! Here is the smell.” Apparently a gasoline-based oil had been used to lubricate the ancient device the night before.
At that very moment in they came, fully decked, strong, young, handsome with axes and … well…forgive my drama but with the presence of heroes. Five of them. Mali cringed. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! It isn’t gas!’
‘It smells like gas’ one of them said. She pointed to the lock and they checked it out. Suddenly the last two men stepped forward and one began to explain in English. I looked up and recognized a US insignia. I stood up.
“Are you volunteers from America?” I asked.
I wish I could explain their look, such a tender combination of real humility and pride. “Yes ma’am, we are. We came to help with these big fires that you all are having here.”
I wanted to kiss them. Before I could the leader said, “And this man here is from Cyprus. He came to help us too.”
That was too much for Mali and me. We both jumped up and down, thanking them profusely, just as the police drove up to make sure we were ok. What a touching sight. Love was reaching out in all directions.
But that wasn’t ALL. Several patients were late and complained about a huge traffic jam. “An accident,” one said authoritatively. “Always an accident.”
But it wasn’t.
Aaron HarNoie came in. I like him. I shared his testimony with you around Jerusalem Day, how I learned that he was a hero. Sometimes, once a hero, always a hero.
“I caused that traffic jam,” he said.
“Oh no, were you in an accident?” I asked.
He laughed. “I saw some guys in a car acting suspiciously, so I followed them. They stopped near a field and ran out and left some things and came back laughing. So I kept following them. I wrote their license number on my hand. When they did the same thing a second time I got out and looked in their car and it was full of fire starters and incendiaries. They drove off laughing and flicking cigarettes. Took me a long time to find a policeman but they took off and set up roadblocks. They got them, but what a traffic jam!”
Again Mali and I were on our feet. It was a day of heroes and we were humbled.
In the midst of all of the agonies that this world is in right now as it plummets toward fulfillment of His Faithful Word, there are jewels and moments that perhaps are meant to keep our hearts tender. Today an Israeli Arab lumber company in Haifa area that was not damaged donated the wood to rebuild a synagogue that was destroyed by the flames.
Keeping our hearts soft in the midst can be such a challenge in these days. On the train the other day I looked into the face of an African, probably an illegal migrant, a girl of perhaps 15. Her face was so hard and dead that my heart ached. I wondered what kind of horrors she has experienced and prayed for her to be rescued from her hell. I was in the emergency room all night on Tuesday and there was a mental patient curled up in an unresponsive ball. Her name is Olga, and I prayed for her. Awful things happen and we will grow hard and dead or MOVE TOWARD HIM WHO IS LIFE.
That challenge NEVER ends…hard things are happening more and more – even how much more we need to be turned toward HIM!
I will close this now. Since August I have been in high gear with my family issues…and as wonderful as they have been the intensity has highlighted again my limitations. Thankfully, my limitations are really His opportunities. Here am I Lord!
As we invite Him to search our hearts and lead us in His way, may His fire follow His Light and set us aflame again with our first love, that we might glorify Him in the days yet ahead, even in the midst of fires.
God bless you all.
I send my love,
your sister J