While the macro picture widely purveyed is global warming, the micro weathers determine who gets what. Europe is reporting record cold and snow, but it is still summer in this corner of the Middle East. Daily temperatures are ranging above 20 C (high 60s low 70 for Americans out of sync with the rest of the world.), and humidity too low for my household gadgets to register. Eastern winds from the desert that begins within sight of our balcony and extends far into Asia keep things hot and dry. It has been several years without a good rainy season, and this is starting out as another one. There is pressure on the Finance Ministry to increase spending on the desalination plants being built along the coast, and our water bills have spiked higher in order to curb household use and dry out the gardens. 


Fire is a result of such things, as those of you in southern California know well. So far 40 people have died in a blaze raging across the Carmel area of mountains and forest near Haifa. Several communities have been evacuated, and one kibbutz has been destroyed completely. Most of the dead were guards being evacuated from a prison. Their bus became trapped on one of the twisting roads through the steep hills and narrow valleys of the Carmel, just as the fire was skipping from one side of the road to the other.

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Almost all of today''s newspaper deals with personal interest stories of individuals caught in the turmoil, losing life or property, or demonstrating heroic efforts to help others. Not too far into the media are reports with political implications.

 

One of the themes is piling on Interior Minister Eli Yishai, said to be primarily responsible for limiting the resources going to fire fighting equipment and personnel. Yishai is the parliamentary head of the ultra-Orthodox SHAS party. Its rabbis and adherents were prominent in last week''s mass prayers in behalf of rain at the Western Wall. So far those efforts have not produced anything, and the fire may keep going until Nature gets around to shifting the winds from East to West.

 

Insofar as almost all the structures of Israel are built of concrete and stone, urban fire is not the pressing hazard it is where wood is a prime building material. Fire in dry mountain scrub and woodlands is a seasonal problem, but not usually of such severity to destroy life or housing. One might quarrel about the resources appropriate to the usual risks, but this fire is overturning the benefit-cost ratio. Fire brigades quickly exhausted their available personnel, found that they did not have sufficient equipment or supplies, and were woefully lacking of up to date aircraft that could fill up with water in the nearby sea and splash enough tons at the right places.

 

Equipment and personnel are on their way to Israel from Cyrus, Greece, Spain, France, the United States and even Turkey. Some of this is pay back for the aid Israel has sent near and far in response to earthquakes and other countries'' fires. It also reflects Israel''s efforts to remain in the club of the decent. My correspondents who preach total war and being done with the Arab threat once and for all should take note.

 

We are waiting on news about the property of our good friends in Ein Hod, an artist community on the edge of the Carmel that is among the locales evacuated. Moshe Mokady was among the well known artists whose career spanned Paris, Palestine, and Israel from the 1920s. He was a founder of Ein Hod, and his children preserve a number of his works in his studio and the home they often use on weekends. Other artists continue to live and work in the village, and its museum includes items reflecting a history of nearly 60 years.


Early reports are that the fire began in the trash dump of an Arab village, and that there were other points of origin as well. If the beginning was intentional, it would not be the first case of using a match and gasoline against the Jews. So far there are no reports of Arabs dancing in the streets and passing out sweets. The Carmel is home to Druze, other Arabs and Jews, and they are all participating in the losses, the flight, and temporary housing.

 

 


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