November 29, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel
As the smoke clears from the devastating wildfires in Israel last week, the nation is assessing the damage and beginning the daunting task of rebuilding.
The scope of the disaster is overwhelming. The fires burned more than 30,000 acres of forest, about 30 percent more than were destroyed during the massive Carmel fire in 2010. In Haifa alone, one of the cities hardest hit, at least 60,000 people were evacuated – and some returned to find their homes destroyed or uninhabitable. There were no deaths, thank God, but 180 people were injured.
The Fellowship responded immediately, contacting municipal leaders in the affected communities and providing assistance with food, clothing, and other basic necessities. Our emergency hotline gave residents – many of them elderly and unable to care for themselves in the best of circumstances – somewhere to call for immediate aid. And we will continue to work so that the people of Israel affected by this disaster are able to return to their homes and resume their normal lives.
To make a bad situation worse, Israeli authorities confirmed that some of the fires were set deliberately by people seeking to wreak as much havoc and devastation as possible. These terrorists – at least 35 people have been arrested for arson or incitement as of this writing – greatly expanded the scope of human misery caused by the natural disaster.
But, even as some did their worst, many more did their best. First responders worked tirelessly to help those in need, and aid flowed in from around the world, including from the U.S., and even from some of Israel’s neighbors like Egypt and Jordan. Palestinian firefighters worked alongside their Israeli counterparts to fight the blaze; one Palestinian said, “This is what every human being would do to help another in need, and a fire cannot see your nationality.” And Fellowship staff and volunteers inspired me by giving their all to see that people’s needs were met. In the midst of chaos and despair, it is examples of kindness and compassion like this that bring hope.
I, too, feel an overwhelming sense of hope thanks to Fellowship friends like you. Because of your faithful prayers and support, we were able to be on the front lines rushing aid and comfort to the fire victims. This is an untold blessing, one that all the people of Israel recognize and appreciate deeply.
The Bible tells us, “The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord” (Isaiah 51:3). Let us rest assured that God is looking over, protecting, and working for the restoration of His beloved land and people.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President