D’var Israel — December 10, 2016

Noa Amir and Aviv Shabo
D’var Israel

Shabbat Shalom!

My name is Noa Amir, and as you may know, three weeks ago, a series of fires began in Israel that impacted the entire country and hit very close to home — literally— for myself and my partner, Aviv.

The town I come from, Zichron Ya'akov, was absolutely amazing. The entire community — and all of our homes — were surrounded by trees, animals, and nature. For me, this was the most beautiful place in the world.

Three weeks ago, I woke up to more than five messages on my phone asking me if my family was okay and if my house was damaged? I got a little bit nervous and didn't understand what happened. Then I opened up my phone to look at the news and saw a picture of my friend's house. But instead of seeing their beautiful white and yellow house, it was covered in black. Instead of their colorful garden, there was nothing.

When I said that Zichron is the most beautiful place in the world, I really meant it. I live on an amazing hill on the border between the centre and the north of Israel. The hills are surrounded by trees, and you can see the ocean very clearly. Because of that breathtaking view, my community developed an unusual hobby ; we started to build overlooks into the side of the hills, so that we can take advantage of the amazing views and spend time there with our families and friends. Sometimes my friends and I would just sit there to watch the sunset.

Three months before I flew here to Canada, I met a friend of mine, Shai, who only comes back home from the army every three to four weeks. He told me that he was building a new overlook. He said that it will take him a long time to finish because he doesn't get back to Zichron very often. But he said that when I will come back to Israel in December it should be done. I can’t wait to see it!

A month ago, he sent me a picture from the completed overlook, and the view from it. It was absolutely amazing. I was so excited for him.

When I realized that houses in Zichron started to burn, I texted almost all of my friends back home asking how they were? Is their house all right? Do their families need a place to stay (because some of them were evacuated)?

When I spoke to Shai he said: "the fire is now two houses away from my house. I hope it will stay there. But do you remember the observation area I built?" A second later I got a picture. It was the same area — with the land in the distance. And that beautiful view was now all black and empty against the backdrop of the blue sea in the distance. It was so sad.

I wish that Zichron's story was just about some burned trees and forests. But the truth is that 20 minutes later someone from my group of friends sent a chat message that said, "I don’t have a house. It burned. I’m homeless. What am I supposed to do now?" Everyone immediately invited him and his family to stay at their house, but no one could give him a real answer. What should he do now?

I realized how bad the situation was when more friends started to say that their homes were completely burned. I was watching the news and recognized all of the people being interviewed and the people on the news sites —all my friends’ parents.

Then I found out the news from my mom that my grandparents got evacuated because their house was in the line of the fire. When I heard that, I started to feel guilty for not being there with them. It made me think, "What would I do if something happened to my house? Will I return to Israel and help my family?"

After the fires in Zichron made the news, we all began hearing that fires were spreading all around Israel. I think that here is the right place to mention Israeli society and its actions at times like these. I like to say that no matter what happens in Israel, in emergency situations we become one! Restaurants were serving people for free, hotels were accepting people without asking questions and people just opened their doors to strangers because a lot of families got evacuated from their houses or had no house anymore.

Zichron, in my opinion, is still the best place in the world. But instead of green, it is now black. Instead of trees and clean air, we have the smell of smoke. Instead of a happy community, there is a community that is shaken and trying to recover from some tragic days. We were wounded badly and need time to heal. But one thing I know is that because Israel is strong, we will not let this break us. We will move forward and be stronger from it.

Shabbat Shalom,

My name is Aviv Shabo, and I took would like to talk about how the firs in Israel have impacted me – how they have impacted Israel.

It has been about two weeks since the last fires took place. And a lot has been said about who is guilty.

For me, I don't care who is guilty.

The arson wave that attacked Israel three weeks ago, has left behind a wound that will take time to heal, until it will become a scar. And like a scar, it will stay there forever. I'm looking at Israel after the fire, and I'm in shock. How, in a week, some of the most special and green areas of Israel burned down completely, and all that is left are ashes and dust.

And I don't care who is guilty.

The arson wave that attacked Israel three weeks ago has left behind thousands of people without a home. A home, the place that gives you security and warmth is gone. I'm looking at Israel after the fire, and I cannot believe that there are people who lost their homes in just a few minutes — their life’s work, the memories, the pictures, the objects. Things that money can’t buy are gone. We are talking about a history in places that are significantly important in the creation of the Jewish state — Jerusalem, Haifa, Zichron.

And I just don't care who is guilty.

As you heard from Noa, the arson wave that attacked Israel three weeks ago has left behind one main color: black.

It's like someone took a masterpiece and covered it all in black. Will the forests regrow and bring back the view — that amazing view, where millions of people have chosen to build their homes, their community?

So, I just don't care who is guilty.

The arson wave that attacked Israel three weeks ago has left us with a feeling of fear, frustration, and disappointment. People are scared of the future. And I’m asking you: how can we live normally in these conditions?

And so, I just don't care who is guilty.

Why SHOULD I care about who’s guilty? If the guilty is found, will he bring back what he has taken from me? From my nation?

If the guilty is found, can he promise me that this will never happen again? The answer is obviously no.

So what do I care about? Good question, thanks for asking!

I care about Israel. About the people who have no roof. About the cities and the mountains that lost their colours. I care about my nation, that it goes to sleep with no fear. I wish that everything could be back to the way it was three weeks ago. But for this wish to come true, we need time and we need hope.

Ladies and gentleman. in a few minutes, we will rise and pray with words of hope:

להיות עם חופשי בארצנו ארץ ציון וירושלים.

To be a free nation in our land the land of Zion and Jerusalem. The arson wave that attacked Israel three weeks ago challenged our right to be free in our land — and we can’t let anyone take that freedom away.

When you are leaving this hall today, I want you to think about the people who now have no hope. What happened in the arson wave was terror that was brought by people who don't care about our hope.

However, I don't want you to take me the wrong way. Israel is strong. I believe that we have found a solution to every problem we’ve ever had. Well, almost every problem.

A dry country is now recycling 80% of its water. The state created in the desert of the ‘40s now grows almost all of its own crops. The country without natural resources is the home of a magnificent nonstop, high-tech industry that can only work thanks to the amazing human assets we have. The country that fought for its independence with a broken army and a broken heart from the Holocaust, now has one of the strongest armies in the world. And you know, we came out of slavery in Egypt, and we will cross through this modern wilderness or terrorism too.

I don't care who is guilty. I don't know who did what. And I don't know why. But I do know this: He who burns the land, does not deserve to have the land.

We need to stand strong against terror and resist it. But more than anything else, we can never lose hope. We are a people of hope. And we are a people of the future. What we have built on the land is remarkable and only we — yes you and me — look around all over this hall. Only we can keep the hope alive.

Thank you and Shabbat shalom.

Aviv and Noa