In My Own Write: The Big Heat
How something useful and good can turn into something mad and destructive, just like that.
A gas burner [illustrative photo] Photo: Thinkstock/Imagebank
It comes every year, the Big Heat, and every year we wilt and wonder whether it
was quite this bad last summer.
I was pondering just this question when I
burned my husband’s pants – not, luckily, his good pants, though he was fond of
them and still wears them on selected occasions.
Nor is “burn” totally
accurate; what happened was that I forgot to turn off the gas after making
porridge a while ago. So the burner was on very low when he rested a large
plastic bowl on the stove top, which is next to the window, prior to taking in
Having finished the job, he then wandered off.
time he returned, a quantity of beige plastic had melted off the bottom of the
bowl and attached itself in an indelible but, it must be said, not unattractive
pattern to his khaki pants.
Now I might, given the topic of this column,
be moved to describe this lapse of mine as rendering him somewhat hot under the
collar, but a. I dislike cliché, and b. it wouldn’t be true. He can be very
even-tempered and, in fact, says he will have forgotten about the whole episode
in a year or two.
BUT ALL this is by the bye, serving only as a kind of
introduction to my musing on how a thing that is good and useful – essential,
actually – can suddenly turn bad and utterly destructive.
which is so cozy and comforting when it is cooking our food or keeping us warm
in winter, and so alien and monstrous when it rages out of control.
a few days ago, 37 firefighting crews comprising 82 firefighters confronted a
blaze that tore through the wadis west of Jerusalem, in a scene that recalled a
similar event a mere three weeks before. The fire burned around 10 hectares – 25
acres – of land, damaged a number of homes, including many in Mevaseret Zion,
and caused injury to six people.
According to news reports, firefighters
have battled more than 1,500 fires in open areas of the country over the past
two months alone. Their investigations have led them to conclude that at least
70 percent of those fires were the result of arson.
That’s an awful lot
of wickedness – or stupidity, if you want to be kinder – and it was good to hear
the news this week that individual firefighting units are to be replaced by a
National Fire and Rescue Service, and that the Fire Service’s budget is to be
boosted by an additional billion shekels each year.
Perhaps this will
attract more good people to a vital and currently understaffed
In the meantime, 12 people have been arrested in connection with
the past two months’ fires, and one would like to think that the severest
penalties await those proved to have set them out of
Incidentally, how I hate the phrase “acting out of nationalistic
motives” whenever I hear it used by the media. It makes hate-based criminality –
terrorism – sound almost noble, like something done to benefit one’s nation and
God forbid that anyone should act to maim or kill innocent people
under that rubric, or destroy their property, on my behalf!
ONE SHUDDERS to
contemplate the desperate act by fire carried out by social justice protester
Moshe Silman last weekend. It’s dreadful enough when one hears of a Buddhist
monk or some other semi-mysterious figure in a far-off land immolating himself –
but during a rally on a street in central Tel Aviv, after distributing copies of
a suicide note! With burns over 90% of his body, Silman has been deemed not
likely to survive the tragedy – which may be a mercy and a blessing.
too, I cannot help feeling, have been scarred by this extreme and terrible act
of self-destruction that is now part of the annals of our country’s
It raises, as The Jerusalem Post editorial of July 16 noted,
“ethical issues regarding the limitations of our welfare state,” as well as
“sparking debate about the increasing atomization of Israeli society,” in which
Silman was, to all appearances, “so devoid of support from friends, family and
the community that he opted for suicide.”
Was it inevitable that two
other Israelis – in Petah Tikva and Beersheba – should have sought to emulate
Silman’s ghastly protest, as occurred one and two days later?
WITH 60% percent
of Israel’s wealth currently in the hands of just 10% of the population, we well
know that it isn’t only the fringes of our society that are in financial
straits, sometimes dire straits.
We who live in this country also well
know that salaries have been dropping at the same time as the cost of goods and
services, and especially food, has risen. Floods and drought worldwide are
contributing to a decrease in the supply – and thus increase in price – of corn,
soy and wheat.
Who knows when, and if, this situation will improve? With
all the genuine grievances of Israel’s social protesters, I can’t help thinking
that actions such as this week’s setting fire to the offices of the National
Insurance Institute in Ramat Gan – crossing the line from protest to anarchy –
aren’t any kind of solution.
And even with the expertise and good will of
the committee set up to deal with the protesters’ claims, the kind of change
being demanded will not come overnight.
Those of us who are afloat, and
not sinking, in our current social reality must therefore, at the very least,
look beyond our own comfort zones – that is, the familiar circle of our families
and friends – and keep an ear cocked, ready to pick up any sound of desperation
in a neighbor, or even slight acquaintance.
We might not be able to offer
practical help. But even listening with patience and empathy to someone’s
troubles can be a balm.
Who knows but that a kind word from us might halt
the next despairing soul on the threshold of an irrevocable act carried out in
the heat of the moment? CAN ANYTHING be written about rising global temperatures
without relating to the question of global warming?
At the most basic level: 1.
Is GW a reality, making it imperative that we control our pollution and
emissions and manage our waste disposal now, if we want the next generation to
inhabit our planet as we know it; or 2. Are we merely passing through a period
of warming of the earth, similar to other periods that have occurred in history?
Authoritative voices on both sides of the question have answered yes.
was struck by an article I read a while ago in one of the major US papers in
which an expert stated, quite categorically, that what we recycle or otherwise
do, or stop doing – however dedicated – on an individual basis to limit
pollution is less than a drop in the ocean, and ultimately
In other words, the expert strongly implied, our
individual efforts together amount to zero compared to what ought to be done,
but isn’t being done, on a national basis by the so-called developed
I don’t remember whether he made this next point, or not: But
whether global warming is or isn’t a looming threat to continued human
existence, there is clearly still tremendous value in our own, personal sense
that we are acting responsibly toward the planet and “doing our bit” – even if
it is only a bit.
GOING FROM the sublime to the ridiculous – and not to
mock those who believe that the celestial bodies’ movements influence human
affairs – Fire is the element associated with my birth sign,
“Everything about the Lion’s personality is hot, hot, hot,” exults
Now while astrology isn’t something I’ve ever taken very
seriously, “hot, hot, hot” does express exactly how I’ve been feeling over the
last few weeks, as temperatures in Israel have hovered around the mid-30s and
higher, and show no sign of abating anytime soon.
Maybe it’s time to look
up my horoscope.