Friday, December 3, 2010

Fire at Chanukah

Chanukah is the festival of lights, marking the rededication of the (second) Temple. The oil, enough for one day only, that fuelled the eternal flame in the Temple lasted miraculously for eight days.
This Chanukah, however, will be remembered for the biggest fire in our history, which rages at Mount Carmel, threatening the city of Haifa. Much of the most beautiful forest area has been destroyed. Prisons and hospitals, towns and villages, have been evacuated, some severely damaged. There have been more than forty fatalities, most trapped in a bus trying to escape the fire. Up to two million trees may have been destroyed.

There has been a tremendous world-wide response to Israel's need for assistance. There are not enough fire-fighters, not enough fire retardants. Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Russia, Turkey, Spain, Britain, Egypt, Jordan, France, Croatia, Spain, Romania and other countries have sent fire fighters and fire-fighting planes.
The international aid as well as the thousands of volunteers that help curb the fire, help and host the evacuated, and assist in the emergency is heart-warming.

The cause of the fire has not been determined yet, though arson and carelessness are common causes. The tree of life and renewal - almost every tree in Israel has been planted - can all too easily be destroyed. Fire is one of nature's prominent energies of transformation. However, when merely razing outside the realms of the ego, it may be destructive rather than constructive. In the hands of the Promethean capability of consciousness and ‘thinking ahead,’ fire may serve acculturation, light, warmth and relatedness, conscious will, focus and intention. (This will be elaborated in my forthcoming book 'Archetypal images of the life cycle,' to be published by Fisher King Press in 2011).

Disturbingly, the Interior Minister, from one of the Orthodox religious parties, has asked for a Committee of Inquiry to be established, which is obviously his way of avoiding responsibility for great neglect, for which he should resign (or, truly, be fired). It is due to his, and others' neglect that what should have remained a small fired that was quickly curbed by appropriately equipped firemen, became an ecological catastrophe.
In my Enemy, Cripple Beggar I devote a chapter to the prophet Elijah. His confrontation with King Ahab on Mount Carmel ranks as "the most dramatic moment in the centuries of struggle between Hebrew monotheism and the seductive pagan cults that constantly eroded it" (Comay). Many now pray for the fire to be extinguished, just like many have prayed for the rain that so far has failed to fall. However, prayer is not enough. When the soul and the meaning of history and legend are lost to short-sighted political benefits for socially parasitical groups that avoid participating in the welfare of society at large, catastrophe seems to come all too close. (From a different perspective I write about this in my novella Requiem, remaining hopeful that sanity will prevail).
The time has come to draft those who claim that Torah studies is their profession. When Ben Gurion accepted to let a small number of "Torah geniuses" be exempt from army service, he probably did not predict that this would be used by tens of thousands, assisted by narrow-minded politicians. National service as fire fighters and as sanitarians in the hospitals would be a socially appropriate manifestation of a true religious approach.

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