Israeli rabbi says it’s OK to break Sabbath and shoot Arab arsonists amid raging wildfires

Flames blaze in the woods as a wildfire rages in the northern city of Haifa, Israel November 24, 2016. © Baz Ratner
It is permissible to break the Sabbath in order to stop, and even shoot, Arab arsonists, according to the municipal chief rabbi of Safed. Another spiritual leader suggested that the wildfires raging in Israel are divine punishment for the delay in legalizing outposts in the West Bank.

“The prime minister described the arson as terrorism ... it’s a miracle that people weren’t burned alive, but we don’t rely on miracles. It’s certainly permitted and required to violate Shabbat to stop the fire and the arsonists. And if necessary, also to shoot them,” the rabbi said on Facebook.

Eliyahu believes that if the permission had been introduced earlier, the cities of Beit Me'ir, Carmiel and Haifa “would have been spared from this disaster”.

“I hope that the chief of staff and the police commissioner will give clear instructions to soldiers and police officers and citizens drawn from the fact that the fires have not finishes, and it is their responsibility,” he added, according to Ynetnews.

As firefighters keep on struggling to bring the wildfires under control, Israeli police have arrested 13 suspected arsonists so far, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan told reporters.

“The highest likelihood is that the motive is nationalistic,” Erdan told Army Radio. He said there were “minorities” among the suspects, apparently referring to Arab Israeli citizens or Palestinians. At least four of those arrested, according to AP, were Palestinians.

Meanwhile, a number of reports emerged in the media saying that young Arabs had been seen celebrating and thanking Allah for punishing Jews. At the same time, Israel Today reports, many of the Arabs living in Israel have been ready to provide shelter for those who had to evacuate from the burning areas.

The wildfire triggered a massive evacuation with some 80,000 people having been forced to leave their homes.

Unlike Rabbi Eliyahu, another leading religious figure, Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, is sure that the fires are divine punishment sent by God, who is unhappy that the Regulation bill aimed at legalizing outposts in the West Bank, has not been passed yet.

“The day that the decision is taken that can’t be gotten around with legal wrangling, that very day the rains of blessing will begin to fall,” Levanon suggested, according to Jerusalem Post.

Wildfires have been sweeping across parts of Israel for four days now. Fearing the repetition of a deadly 2010 blaze in which 44 people died, the port-city of Haifa, which has suffered the most, declared a state of emergency.

READ MORE: Wildfires in Israel force over 80,000 people to evacuate, Netanyahu blames 'arsonist terrorism'

Russia, Cyprus, Turkey, Croatia and Greece are helping Israel deal with the fires which are spreading especially quickly due to strong winds and extremely dry weather conditions. Egypt and Jordan have joined in, Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Friday.