“Our Town is Burning”, by Mordechai Gebirtig, was written in Yiddish in 1938, after a pogrom in Przytyk, Poland.
Our town is burning, brothers, burning
Our poor little town is burning.
Angry winds are fanning higher
The leaping tongues of flame and fire,
The evil winds are roaring!
Our whole town burns!
And you stand looking on with folded arms,
And shake your heads.
You stand looking on, with folded arms,
While the fire spreads!
Well, in our case it isn't just a single town - it's thousands of acres in the Carmel - Israel's lush north which is a tinderbox this year due to extreme drought conditions. Over 40 people have died since yesterday and the fire rages on, forcing evacuations and bringing international aid from unlikely places - firefighting planes from Greece were the first to arrive this morning - ironic, considering it's Chanukah, the holiday in which we celebrate our victory over the Greeks.
No, the world isn't standing looking on with folded arms while the fire spreads. Greece, France, Britain, Spain, Russia, Turkey, Cypress, Bulgaria, Croatia and Azerbaijan have all sent planes. Egypt and Jordan have offered help, as well as the US and Canada.
We who are always at the forefront of rapid response to international disaster are now accepting help from others. Families and friends mourn and bury their dead.
Even here at Radio Free Nachlaot we are not untouched by this tragedy. Our own DJ Maya lost a friend - a Criminologist working with the Israeli prison authority - who was amongst the 40 who perished by fire on the bus trapped by flame on the road to Mt. Carmel yesterday.
Our hearts are heavy, but it's no accident that tonight is the the earliest candle lighting of the year. The darkest, longest night is the one in which our lights shine the brightest.
From Haftara Shabbos Chanukah: Zechariah 3:2 - "HaShem shall denounce you, O Satan ...This is indeed a firebrand rescued from the flames."
Bless us friends, as we bless you back - that the flames of love and brotherhood should grow higher, and the blaze of destruction should be diminished - Happy Chanukah, Shabbat Chanukah Shalom ...