Israelis from all walks of life gathered at the Kotel (Western Wall) on Sunday evening to light chanukah candles and pay their respects to the 41 people – most of them Prison Services officers – killed Thursday in a massive fire in northern Israel.
Among those who lit candles were Prison Services officers who traveled to the Kotel directly from their friends’ funerals. After candles were lit, the officers joined soldiers, youth, rabbis, and many others in saying a prayer for the people of Israel, for the spiritual peace of those killed in the disaster, and for the recovery of the wounded.
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz, rabbi of the Western Wall, said the tragedies of recent days were reminiscent of the verse Jews recite on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, “who [will die] by water, and who by fire.” The verse is part of a prayer reminding worshipers that the fate of each person is sealed on Yom Kippur.
Israel has faced tragedy involving both fire and water, Rabbi Rabinovitz said. The disaster that struck Israel’s north and killed dozens was accompanied by a severe drought that has left the land parched for water, he explained.
“This is the time for soul-searching, for each person to examine himself – and not, G-d forbid, to seek out fault in his fellow man,” he told the crowd. “Unity is the basis from which to deal with catastrophes.”
He offered a prayer and asked everyone to join in, “May the light of the candles that we lit in Your holy courtyard, next to the remainder of Your Temple, bring the light of Zion, and may we all soon merit its light.”