While Israeli officials have blamed a rash of fires on a mix of negligence, uncooperative weather and terror-minded firebugs, some Jewish and Muslim religious “authorities” have fingered a more powerful arsonist: God. Leading Sephardic Rabbi Tzion Boaron asserted that the dozens of fires that destroyed hundreds of homes and forced tens of thousands to

flee their homes was punishment for widespread Shabbat desecration. “Fire only exists where the Shabbat is desecrated,” Boaron said, quoting a passage from the Talmud (Shabbat 119b). The same passage was invoked in December 2010 by former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, Ovadia Yosef, in relation to the devastating Camel forest fire in which 44 people died. READ MORE