President Barack Obama is offering condolences to families in Israel who've lost loved ones in the worst forest fire in the country's history, and pledging U.S. help.

The president commented at a Hanukkah celebration at the White House Thursday on the disaster that killed 36 people. The fire ripped through a forest in Israel's Galilee, one of the country's few forested areas.

The president addressed himself to Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, who was at the celebration. Obama said the U.S. was exploring how to help Israel respond to the disaster.

Said the president: "That's what friends do for each other."