Memory of Hanukkah’s Past: “Get Israel Whatever It Needs. Now!”

— by Jason Attermann

During the White House Hanukkah celebration last week, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren recalled last year’s reception in which President Obama came to Israel’s aid “without hesitation” and sent an American fire-fighting team to help put out the Carmel Forest fires.

Adam Kredo of the Washington Jewish Week reported:

“On route to the President’s Hanukkah reception, right outside of the White House, my cell phone started ringing,” Oren recalled, according to a transcript of his speech. “It was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Carmel Forest in North Israel was ablaze … and the fire was descending on Haifa. Israel needed fire-fighting planes, at once, but it had none.”

Netanyahu directed his ambassador to, “Quick, go ask President Obama for help.”

That’s when Oren entered the White House and asked to see the president.

“I told him the situation and without hesitation, President Obama turned to one of his aides and said, ‘get Israel whatever it needs. Now,'” Oren recalled.

He explained to those in attendance at Wasserman-Shultz‘s Hanukkah party that “America has 11 fire-fighting planes; the next morning, 8 of them took off for Israel, along with a team of fire-fighting commandos.”

“Later that night,” Oren continued, “I learned, that the President left the Hanukkah reception and flew secretly to Afghanistan. Upon arriving, he called Washington and the first question he asked, ‘Has Israel gotten its planes?’ He also called Prime Minister Netanyahu and expressed his condolences for Israel’s losses and America’s commitment to Israel’s well-being.”

Thank International Community For Helping Fight Fire in the Galilee

Israel holds ceremonies to thank firefighters from Arab countries, Europe and the U.S. for helping extinguish the Carmel Hills fire. (Photo: Israel Defense Forces)

— Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

The Galilee fire ultimately claimed 42 lives, destroyed communities and consumed more than 4 million trees across 10,000 acres, but without help from Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Jordan, Romania, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States it could have been much worse.

Even as we mourn this tragedy, we must take the time to thank the countries that helped. So often we express our concern that Israel is isolated and delegitimized. Now, however, we have an opportunity to recognize those who made a difference. Please take the time now to say thank you to the heroes who helped Israel during this difficult time.

Contact information for embassies follows the jump.

Excel spreadsheet:

  • Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan, His Excellency Yashar T. Aliyev, 2741 34th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20008 [email protected]
  • Permanent Mission of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United Nations, His Excellency Agshin Mehdiyev, 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 560, New York, NY 10017, [email protected]
  • Permanent Mission of the Republic of Bulgaria to the United Nations, His Excellency Rayko Raytchev, 11 East 84th Street, New York, NY 10028, [email protected]
  • Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria, Her Excellency Elena Poptodorova, 1621 22nd Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008, [email protected]
  • Permanent Mission of the Republic of Croatia to the United Nations, His Excellency Ranko Vilovic, 820 Second Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10017, [email protected]
  • Embassy of the Republic of Croatia, Her Excellency Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, 2343 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, [email protected]
  • Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cyprus to the United Nations, His Excellency Minas Hadjimichael, 13 East 40th Street New York, NY 10016, [email protected]
  • Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus His Excellency Pavlos Anastasiades, 2211 R. Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008, [email protected]
  • Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations, His Excellency Maged Abdelaziz, 304 East 44th Street, New York, NY 10017, [email protected]
  • Egyptian Embassy, His Excellency Sameh Shoukry, 3521 International Court, NW, Washington, DC 20008, [email protected]
    Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations, His Excellency Gérard Araud, One Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, 245 East 47th Street, 44th Floor, New York, NY 10017, [email protected]
  • Embassy of France, His Excellency Pierre Vimont, 4101 Reservoir Road, NW, Washington, DC 20007, [email protected]
  • Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations, His Excellency Peter Wittig, 871 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017, [email protected]
  • Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, His Excellency Klaus Scharioth, 4645 Reservior Road, NW, Washington, DC 20007,
  • Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations, His Excellency Anastassis Mitsialis, 866 Second Avenue, 13th Floor, New York, NY 10017, [email protected]
  • Embassy of Greece, His Excellency Vassilis Kaskarelis, 2217 Massachusetts Ave, NW Washington DC, 20008, [email protected]
  • Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations, His Excellency Cesare Ragaglini, Two United Nations Plaza, 24th Floor, New York, NY 10017, [email protected]
  • Embassy of Italy, His Excellency Giulio Terzi di Sant’ Agata, 3000 Whitehaven Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008, [email protected] 
  • Permanent Mission of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United Nations, His Royal Highness Prince Zeid Al-Hussein, 866 Second Avenue, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10017, [email protected]
  • Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Her Excellency Alia Bouran, 3504 International Drive, NW, Washington, DC 20008, [email protected]
  • Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations, Her Excellency Simona-Mirela Miculescu, 573-577 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10016, [email protected]
  • Embassy of Romania, His Excellency Adrian Cosmin, Vierita 1607 23rd Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008, [email protected]
  • Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, His Excellency Vitaly Churkin, 136 East 67th Street, New York, NY 10065, [email protected]
  • Embassy of the Russian Federation, His Excellency Sergey I. Kislyak, 2650 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20007, [email protected]
  • Permanent Mission of Spain to the United Nations, His Excellency Juan Antonio Yáñez-Barnuevo, One Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, 245 East 47th Street, 36th Floor, New York, NY 10017, [email protected]
  • Embassy of Spain, His Excellency D. Jorge Dezcallar de Mazarredo, 2375 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20037, [email protected]
  • Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations His Excellency Paul Seger Ambassador 633 Third Avenue 29th Floor New York NY 10017 [email protected]
  • Embassy of Switzerland Ambassador Urs Ziswiler Ambassador 2900 Cathedral Ave., NW Washington DC 20008
  • Permanent Mission of the Republic of Turkey to the United Nations His Excellency Ertugrul Apakan Ambassador 821 United Nations Plaza, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10017, [email protected]
  • Turkey Embassy, United States, His Excellency Namik Tan, 2525 Massachusetts Ave., Washington, DC 20008, [email protected]
  • Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom  to the United Nations, His Excellency Sir Mark Lyall Grant, One Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, 885 Second Avenue, New York NY 10017 [email protected]
  • Embassy of the United Kingdom, His Excellency Nigel Sheinwald, 3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, [email protected]
  • Permanent Mission of the United States to the United Nations, Her Excellency Susan E. Rice, 799 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017
  • Permanent Mission of Australia to the United Nations, His Excellency Gary Quinlan, 150 East 42nd Street, 33rd Floor, New York, NY 10017, [email protected]
  • Embassy of Australia, His Excellency Kim Beazley, 1601 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036, [email protected]

Hanukkah Fire Diary from Anne Feibelman

— Anne Feibelman

Hanukkah marks the 10th anniversary of Nigun HaLev, a grass roots congregation in the Jezreel valley.The congregation is comprised of kibbutzniks, moshavniks and city dwellers, farmers and hi-tech executives, children, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. The Kabbalat Shabbat service is modern-Israeli, innovative with guitar, beautiful singing, traditional prayers and nigunnim woven in with modern poetry and Carlebach tunes. A year of planning had gone into the anniversary party, with congregation-wide participation and enthusiasm. Friday morning, due to the forest fire on Mt. Carmel, the three spritual directors of the kehilah met to decide whether to hold the 10th anniversary party scheduled for Saturday morning. After much discussion, a decision was made to postpone the celebration indefinitely.

More after the jump.

By the time Shabbat rolled in and Kabbalat Shabbat services began, the mood was somber. A bus-load of Israelis had been killed on Mt. Carmel. The forests of Mt. Carmel were ashes, and the wildlife that inhabited the green forests were burned to death. It is December. In the season when we pray daily for our winter rain, no rain has fallen.. All forests are dry, crackling timberland.The skies are relentlessly blue, cloudless, hot. .Every step on the dry, parched earth is a reminder that the green fields and moist earth have not arrived.

At Friday night night services,the chairs are arranged around a small table, Rabbi Chen from Moshav Nahalal, begins Kabbalat Shabbat. People arrive, bringing their hanukiot to light. The mood picks up with the singing. Voices are accompanied by Shaye's beautiful guitar playing. A woman joins him on her flute. Kabbalat Shabbat is followed by communal candle-lighting of the hanukiot. One man shares that his hanukiah is made of silver soup spoons from his family. Each family member had a silver spoon with their name engraved on it, for his grandmother's Friday night chicken soup. His family was killed in the Shoah. He has welded together the spoons as a tribute to their light in those dark times. Ma'aariv follows. Bini gives a moving d'var Torah on the importance of having hope and faith despite the burning fire. I say a mi-sheberach for the 10th anniversary of the kehillah.

The service ends. It is time for announcements. One woman who has been sitting quietly, speaks up. She has been evacuated from her home. Her young grandson was visiting at her house for Hanukkah, when she was told to leave immediately because of the fire. She threw things into a suitcase, took her grandson by the hand, and left. She arrived at shul with her suitcase. She is a native Israeli, in her sixties. She said that in all her years growing up and growing old in Israel, she has never been afraid – in the army as a soldier, in the '67, '73, '82 wars, in the intifadas, never. Today she felt fear.

Like all those wars rolled into one moment, of life and loss and love. History is meaningful in Israel, So are current events. Another man spoke. He had arrived a bit late to services. He had planned to hike in the canyon ravine on Mt Carmel. As he was entering the ravine, he got a phone call and had to cancel the hike. Two hours later, a tunnel of fire shot down the canyon and ignited the ravine. He was lucky. He hopes the firefighters are safe.

A woman announces that all the food that was prepared for the 10th anniversary party is being collected, driven up to Mt Carmel, and given to the police and firefighters. No one bats an eye. My friend Dorit is waiting for the sufganyot to arrive.. Her husband Yossi tells me not to worry. The people up around Carmel are different. They know how to deal with tough things in life. The next morning, all televisions are playing the news. The winds have picked up during the night, whipping up the fires like cappuccino foam. The hopes of getting the blaze under control have disappeared.

Drorit's family is sitting under their pomelo tree, having a picnic in winter.The drone of small planes fills the sky. They are flying in low overhead, Two at time – red, yellow, white. Each country is identified by the country's color. Greece – once our oppressors on Hanukkah – is now sending planes to aid Israel. Planes from Turkey and Cyprus follow. Israelis are glad to see the planes again. At night, the skies were too dark for small planes to navigate, so they stopped flying until daybreak. Two by two. Like Noah's ark. Only now, there is no water. There is only destruction by fire.

Every International Catastrophe Has Its Silver Lining

International Community Rallies Round Israel as Fires Rage
— Alan Elsner and Jennifer Packer, The Israel Project

  • 42 dead – toll expected to rise
  • Turkey, Egypt and Jordan among those sending aid
  • Massive Russian firefighting plane on the way

Turkey, Egypt and Jordan were among many countries rushing help to Israel to combat the nation’s worst-ever wildfire which has killed 42 people, destroyed homes and villages, consumed forests and is still threatening the major port city of Haifa.

“We are talking about one of the worst disasters in the country’s history. This is hard day for the entire nation,” said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Egypt, Jordan and Turkey were quick to offer help to the Jewish state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and thanked him for his country’s help.

“We very much appreciate this mobilization and I am certain that it will be an opening toward improving relations between our two countries, Turkey and Israel,” Netanyahu said. It was his first conversation with the Turkish leader since the flotilla incident soured relations between the traditional allies earlier this year.”

With several people listed in critical condition and others reported missing, the death toll was expected to rise.

More after the jump.
Emergency services evacuated more than 15,000 people from their homes as flames swept through at least 5,000 acres of woodland. Police arrested two people, residents of a Druze village, on suspicion of setting fires. The Jerusalem Post said they were detained after being seen hurling Molotov cocktails in a forest on a Carmel mountain hilltop.

Israelis watched helplessly as their homes were destroyed by flames hundreds of feet high. Firefighters said one village was burnt to the ground.

The IDF sent soldiers and equipment, including helicopters, bulldozers, medics and army units to combat the blaze. More help came from Greece, Bulgaria which sent 100 firefighters, Spain, Azerbaijan, Romania Russia, Cyprus, France and Britain. The United States also offered aid. Israel is better known for sending its own rescue teams and medical personnel to other countries to help in their disaster-relief efforts.

“The Russians are sending and we are waiting for the biggest firefighting plane in the world… an Antonov with huge firefighting capacity,” Lieberman told Israel Radio.

One of the main country’s highways was closed as trees smoldered and smoke billowed toward the Mediterranean coastline and flames closed in on a hotel and a spa south of the city.

“The size of the fire is huge, the wind is very strong and there is a problem accessing the mountains and valleys,” said Yoram Levi, a spokesman for Israel’s fire and rescue service. “We don’t have big aircraft that can carry a large amount of water. It is not enough for a large-scale fire.”

“As rescuers and firefighters continue in their work, the United States is acting to help our Israeli friends respond to the disaster,” U.S. President Barak Obama said at a candle-lighting ceremony on Thursday marking the Jewish Chanukah holiday.

Jewish organizations in the U.S. and beyond have launched campaigns to help the victims. The Jewish National Fund, which planted a large percentage of Israel’s forests, called for public support.

American firefighters are on alert to join the operation. The Israel Emergency Volunteers Project will coordinate any call up for the volunteers who have been fully trained under the auspices of the EVP.

The Israeli cabinet met on Friday to discuss the crisis with questions being asked about Israel’s preparedness for such disasters.

US Dispatches Airborne Assistance to Fight Israel’s Wildfires

The U.S. Government, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is immediately dispatching U.S. Department of Defense aircraft to aid in the suppression of the raging wildfires in Israel.

On the way home from visiting the troops in Afghanistan, President Obama called Prime Minister Netanyahu. The President expressed his deepest condolences on behalf of the American people for the tragic loss of life resulting from the fires in northern Israel. The President said he is pleased that American and Israeli officials have been in near-constant contact since the fires began. The President said that USAID and the Department of Defense will be delivering large procurements of fire-retardant chemicals this weekend. The President informed the Prime Minister that the first specialized technical team will arrive tomorrow, with other teams to arrive shortly thereafter, and that the United States government is also working with private industry to mobilize private resources to assist with the effort. The President said that we are working hard to identify a variety of firefighting aircraft to assist with the effort, including possibly deploying assets from the United Sates. The President concluded the conversation by noting that we are pursuing a “full court press” to help and have the Israeli people in our thoughts and prayers.

More after the jump.

Three U.S. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard C-130 Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) aircraft will depart the United States for Israel this weekend to conduct fire suppression operations in support of the Government of Israel. In addition, two U.S. European Command C-130 aircraft carrying 20 tons of fire retardant will depart Ramstein Air Base in Germany to arrive over the weekend to further aid in fighting the wildfires.

These aircraft are in addition to the commercial aircraft chartered by USAID to deliver 45 tons of Fire-Troll fire retardant and 12,000 liters of WD881 Class A foam. Through its partnership with the U.S. Forest Service’s Disaster Assistance Support Program, USAID is also deploying a team of experts join with their Israeli counterparts to help combat the fires.

See USAID Factsheet for more information.

B’nai Brith Emergency Fund
As Israel suffers from the worst fire in the nation’s history, B’nai B’rith International has opened its Israel Emergency Fund to raise money to relieve the human suffering and property losses of this catastrophe.

So far, 41 people have been killed, many injured, and thousands displaced, as the devastating blaze ravages northern Israel and threatens the country’s third largest city, Haifa.

In response to Israel’s rare appeal for international assistance, an unprecedented international convoy of firefighters has answered the call and have either already arrived or are enroute. Nations that have put aside tensions to assist Israel include countries as diverse as the United States, Egypt, Turkey, Russia, Greece, Spain, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Croatia, and many more.

B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick, in launching the campaign, said, “The B’nai B’rith record of assistance to Israel dates back to 1865 when we raised $4,522 for the victims of a cholera epidemic. We must do everything possible to assist the victims of this catastrophe.

B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin added, “It is gratifying to see so many nations around the world responding to Israel’s plea for assistance, just as Israel has done with disasters in other countries. In times of crisis, nations put aside differences and deal with the humanitarian needs. We look forward to members and friends of B’nai B’rith responding generously to this campaign.”
Tax deductible donations to the Israel Emergency Fund can be made online using a secure online contribution form.