On Friday, while driving back up the hill from an Ikea run, I found out my kids had been picked up from home by a friend because a forest fire went rogue coming too close to our residential area. By the time I saw the giant smoke cloud rising on the horizon, a text had gone out warning people on my block to evacuate. By the time I left my apartment after checking we took the important documents, police were knocking on doors and yelling from the street to move on out.
It’s 72 hours later; the fires have been choked near us and have moved on across hills. Houses remain in tact; even the farm was left somehow mostly untouched. Yet it was the closest a forest fire in our area has come to harming property or people in the 14 years I’ve been living in Tzur Hadassah. It was really, really something to watch up close.
When we first moved to Tzur Hadassah, I’ll admit – my Australian and I would laugh uncomfortably about how lackadaisical the local firemen seemed. We called in a fire we spotted in the forest and the response was, ‘oh… yeah we know… we’ll check it out soon’. But over the years there have been a fair amount of serious fires, some of them not so harm-less on other parts of the Jerusalem Hills. My respect for them has grown and I want to share my appreciation for the 35 firefighting teams from around the country that came to our town to prevent the fire from swallowing more than our beloved Sansan forest – with trucks, planes, ATVs and helicopters.
It was a chance to see how just how much our kids are not taught the same level of fire awareness as we were in the States and Australia, but equally a chance to have a very in-depth series of conversations over Shabbat. After begging the cop charged with blocking entrance to our street to let us run up and grab some toothbrushes and underwear for camping at friends’, we got the message that the evacuation was lifted and we could return home, an hour before Shabbat. The next 25 hours were quiet and not quiet as the smell of ash kept wafting in, planes kept flying overhead, pink flame retardant kept sprinkling down on leftover spot fires across the Sansan.
We went to see what nature left over this afternoon. What was swallowed, and what was spared.
Seeing fellow townies walk around checking it out, together but not together, smiling in greeting while mind is elsewhere, it was a corona vibe all over again. Waving at the firefighters passing through our street every few minutes – we live at the end of the town, right before the nature preserve starts – it’s a reset for what we’re doing here, what our role is, our responsibility.
We could joke that 2020 isn’t over; that 2021 is just the sequel. But we can also realize how small we are, how the world turns and we happen to be on it. How if we really wanted to, we could do better.
It leaves me in awe of our planet, in the forest fires’ purpose, in nature’s course, in human strength. We could coexist within Earth’s framework if we could just learn to show more reverence.
No word on cause yet.