On Thursday, December 2, as Jews throughout the world celebrated the first day of Chanukah, a carelessly-tended bonfire spread and ignited the Carmel forest just south of Haifa.
Dozens of people have lost their lives. Over 12,500 acres and 5 million trees have been destroyed and, by Saturday night, more than 17,000 people had been evacuated from 15 communities.
When Haifa University was evacuated on Thursday afternoon, Hillel Director Yonatan Barkan and his staff helped find temporary housing, especially for overseas students who do not have family in Israel or a safe place to go.
If you would like to make an immediate impact to assist in the recovery, please consider contributing to our partners at The Jewish Federations of North America at http://www.jewishfederations.org/page.aspx?id=234891
Throughout our history, the Jewish response to destruction and devastation is to rebuild. As we wait for the situation to further stabilize, Hillel Israel is already planning a National Day of Service to help in the rehabilitation of the north, in a program similar to a large-scale project we undertook after the Lebanon War four years ago, bringing busloads of students from all over the country to help clean up the damage and restore both the forest areas and destroyed property. The National Day of Service is tentatively planned for Friday, December 31st with the option to stay afterwards in Haifa for Shabbat.
We are coordinating our efforts with local and national authorities to provide maximum assistance and will plan additional days of service closer to Tu B'Shvat.
As Israel faces its own "Hurricane Katrina," the support and concern of friends around the globe means the world to us. Kol Yisrael areivim zeh bazeh - all Jews are responsible for one another.
If you would like to "adopt" one of the Hillel Israel centers' efforts in the post-disaster clean-up, support the National Day of Service or the Shabbat gathering afterwards, or join us for the event, please contact me or Yonatan at Yonatan@haifahillel.org.il.
Please stay informed about what's going on in Israel and raise campus awareness. You can monitor the latest developments by following Hillel on Twitter at @hillelfjcl which is continuously updated with news from Israel and the rest of the Hillel world.
As Jews throughout the world light our chanukiyot in the remaining days of Chanukah, let us all take a pledge to visit the north and help rebuild, replant and revitalize.
Chag Urim Sameach (Have an enjoyable festival of lights),
Hillel: The Center for Jewish Campus Life in Israel Ltd (PBC)