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Massive Wildfires Sweep Israel Day After Palestinians Launch 10 Arson Balloons

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Wildfires raged in Israel on Thursday amid a major heatwave, with police ordering the evacuation of several communities in the country’s center and south.

Edited by: JV Staff

Firefighters battled brushfires along the Gaza boundary, as well as near the country’s main international airport and outside Jerusalem on Thursday, according to an AP report. A major Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway was also closed to traffic because of the fire.

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed “incendiary balloons launched by Hamas” for fires near the Gaza Strip in southern Israel.

AP reported that Gaza terrorists floated at least 10 incendiary balloons into Israel on Wednesday, and in response, Israeli authorities reduced Gaza’s fishing zone from 15 nautical miles to 10.

An Israeli police official told Hebrew media that a fire had almost completely destroyed the village of Mevo Modi’im — a community founded by the late classic Jewish singer and songwriter Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, of blessed memory.

Israel and the region are gripped by a major heatwave, with temperatures around the country reaching 100 F (38 C) and higher.

Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry and Public Security Ministry to seek firefighting aircraft from abroad to help battle the blazes, a spokesman for the premier’s office said.

Residents of the nearby town of Gimzo evacuated Torah scrolls from the community synagogue as the flames approached.

Police said emergency services were still working to bring the fires under control and had no immediate indication of their cause. On Wednesday evening, Israelis marked the joyful Jewish holiday of Lag Ba’Omer with bonfires. Lag B’Omer commemorates the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar, which explores the mystical teachings of the Torah.

For 12 years, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son hid out in a cave to escape the Roman decree to kill him. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was highly critical of the Roman rule in the land of Israel and as a result the Roman authorities targeted him for persecution. While in the cave in the northern Galilee, G-d caused an open miracle to occur when a stream of water and a carob tree suddenly appeared, which provided for the physical sustenance of the Rashbi and his son as they dedicated their days and nights to learning Torah and praying.

A massive forest fire in 2010 burned for four days on northern Israel’s Mount Carmel, claiming 44 lives and destroying around 12,000 acres, much of it woodland. (AP)

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