By Geoffrey Paul
December 5, 2010
So who was to blame for the tragic Carmel fire? Why, God of course! You think this blasphemous? Well, on the basis of Israeli press reports, the Shas Chief Rabbi, Ovadiah Yosef, strongly implied in his shabbat sermon that the fire was God's punishment for desecrators of the sabbath. And it will not surprise those who see a horrible sort of symmetry between the religious outlook of Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists that the Hamas leader in Gaza also believed God had brought down divine punishment on Israelis. It is Rabbi Yosef. through his man in the Israeli Cabinet, Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, who has managed to extract millions of shekels from the Israeli taxpayer for yeshivot and their students. It is Mr Yishai, as the minister responsible for Israel’s firefighting services, who is going to have to explain why the force was under-equipped and under-manned. Which has just given me a glimmer of a good idea: how about requiring all those able-bodied young men and women excused service in the armed forces because of their religious studies to perform national service in the nation’s fire brigades? Mr Yishai might then be able to find some shekalim to equip Israel - a country of some dense forests and close-packed cities - with the minimal equipment needed to halt a major conflagration before it spreads. Would it be blasphemous to suggest that the Almighty would heartily approve of this?