From my colleague Rabbi Boyden...
DATELINE: Friday, 5.00 PM (10.00 AM EST)
The fire in the Carmel Forest is still raging. Israel's fire fighters would have been unable to limit its spread without the fire fighting planes and helicopters that have come to assist from Cyprus, Greece, Jordan and Turkey. (Israel, negligently, has none of her own.) Bulgaria has sent over 90 fire fighters, and offers of assistance have come from many countries, including Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. Chemicals to extinguish the fires from the air are belatedly being flown in today from France and Italy. However, the flames are still raging and is not anticipated that they will be fully doused until sometime next week. More than 15,000 Israelis have been evacuated from their homes, including from parts of Tirat Carmel, Ein Hod and the Haifa suburb of Denia. Kibbutz Beit Oren is in ruins.
However, the greatest tragedy is that 41 prison guards and policemen were burned to death abroad a bus on its way to transfer prisoners from a facility threatened by the flames. A further three, including a fire fighter, have been serious burned and are fighting for their lives in Rambam hospital.
As darkness falls here, the helicopters and planes that have done so much to douse the flames today have been grounded until first light. That will leave much of the fire unattended overnight. However, at the same time, the strong easterly winds that we have experienced during the day and which have fanned the flames have also died down.
There is already a great deal of criticism of the fact that successive Israeli government had not built up a fire force and provided it with the necessary equipment to cope with an eventuality of this nature.
The latest news is that police have arrested two men from Daliat el Carmel, who they suspect may be part of a gang responsible for lighting the fires. However, at this point in time, this is no more than a suspicion.
Hanukah, a festival that is normally associated with the miracle of the flame that continued to burn for eight days, will henceforth also be remembered as the time when Israel faced the challenge of the greatest fire in her history.
Shabbat shalom v'Chag Urim sameyach,