According to Israeli police, the horrible Israeli wildfire that killed 42 people and forced the evacuation of thousands of others from the outskirts of Haifa through the Mount Carmel region of the country had finally been extinguished. The fire could not have been put out without the help of the sixteen other countries including Greece, Egypt and the United States. In response to the catastrophic forest fires in Israel, charities across the world have been collecting money to help the newly homeless rebuild and the injured to heal. But not everybody supports the effort.
In a surprising article, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, urged people not to contribute to these efforts. Called, Don’t Give to the Jewish National Fund. Goldberg urges people not to donate because the Israeli’s have money.
Israel’s per capita GDP is nearly $30,000. Israel is a rich country. The fact that it doesn’t possess adequate firefighting equipment is its own fault. The fact that the leadership of its fire service is incompetent is its own fault. At some point, the good-hearted Diaspora Jews who still think of Israel as a charity case are going to have to tell their cousins to learn to fully-fund basic services like firefighting if they want to be thought of as citizens of an advanced country.
There are a great many good causes in Israel that deserve help, and a great many causes here in America that deserve our help. It seems to me, however, that Israel’s national fire service should be funded by Israel’s government, not by the people of Boca Raton, Potomac and the Upper West Side.
Jeff Goldberg is not making his request out of some hatred for the Jewish State, based on his writing he is a supporter of Israel, and often defends Israel against attacks from his colleague at the Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan. He is requesting that his readers abandon the victims of the Carmel fire out of faulty logic.
Israel’s fire fighting services have been more than adequate for years until they were suddenly hit with these wildfires the breadth of which have never happened in Israel before, especially during the Oct.-May rainy season (this year the rainy season has not been too rainy). Goldberg should know that prepping for a major wildfire, which has never happened in the country before, simply cannot not be a priority. Protection from outside attack must be first. Israel surrounded on all sides by hostile nations, terrorist organizations, along with the near-nuclear Iran. Her funding attention must be on projects such as the Iron Dome anti-missile system or the purchasing F-35 Airplanes.
The Atlantic’s national correspondent is also forgetting that in the Jewish faith, giving charity is one of the most important things we are commanded to do. The Hebrew word for charity, Tzedakah literally means righteousness. Giving charity in Jewish law and tradition is viewed as obligatory self-taxation, rather than voluntary donation. In fact some of the ancient sages say that charity is equal in importance to all the other commandments combined. No one should ever discourage charity giving.
JNF is the mother of all Israel charities. It does not engage in pushing progressive politics like charities such as the Anti-defamation League, it only purchases land in Israel and improves it. Founded in 1901, it began by purchasing land for a Jewish State in the Ottoman-controlled Palestine, in the past 109 years the JNF has also planted 240 million trees, built over 210 reservoirs and dams, developed over 250,000 acres of land, created more than 1,000 parks, proved infrastructure for over 1,000 communities, and today is bringing life to the Negev Desert.
As a child each time I went to Hebrew School I would put some coinage into the blue “pishka” (charity box) so the JNF could plant more trees in Israel. When my family and I traveled to Israel we insisted on planting one of those trees.
The truth is, when you look at all the reasons behind donating to the Jewish National Fund, as much as the JNF needs to get money from people outside of Israel, the people outside of Israel need to give charity to organizations such as the JNF.
Another flaw Goldberg’s logic is when he says because Israel’s per capita GDP is nearly $30,000 its people are too wealthy to receive help in dealing with the Carmel fire. Now lets follow that logic for a moment. According to the International Monetary Fund the U.S.’s per capita GDP is $47,132, does that mean we should have refused the international help we received for Katrina? How about the BP Oil Leak? After all to paraphrase Goldberg words, “it seems to me that the United State’s big oil leak should be funded by the US government, not by the people of Denmark, Saudi Arabia and Canada who supplied equipment for the clean up.” And certainly, following Goldberg’s logic, Israel should not have offered help to Great Britain, Spain or Russia after their horrible terrorist attacks because all three of those countries have a higher per capita GDP than Israel.