ICEJ group in front of the security barrier that shields Netiv HaAsara from Gazan sniper fire.
(photo credit: DENNIS ZINN KKL-JNF)
“We are proud Christian Zionists and we want to help Israel.” This was the message of the 25-member International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem delegation from Germany, which visited Moshav Netiv HaAsara near the Gaza border on Sunday, February 11.
Waiting to meet them in a newly built state-of-the-art bomb shelter situated under a playground in the center of the village was Netiv HahaAsara resident Smadar Shmilovitz, one of the founders of the community. Smadi, as she is known, told the group that there are never enough bomb shelters and that the new one was designed specifically for the children who use the playground.
“We are the closest Israeli residential area to Gaza. Our fence is in fact the dividing fence between Israel and Gaza. When they shoot a rocket towards us we have a mere 15 seconds to rush to safety once we hear the siren. We need shelters on every corner. The children who live here grow up with what they call ‘the orchestra’. First they hear the roar of a rocket being launched on the Gaza side of the fence, followed by the sound of a warning siren, and then the crash of the Iron Dome Missile Defense system destroying the incoming rocket. Then silence and a hesitant back to normal. Nevertheless, despite all this ‘music’, our community is expanding steadily. People want to live here. Just recently a new residential neighborhood was inaugurated with the help of KKL-JNF.”
Smadi took the guests for a walk around the village to see the construction in progress. The moshav was founded in 1982 by 70 families who were residents of the former Israeli settlement of Netiv HaAsara in the Sinai Peninsula, which was evacuated as a result of the peace agreement with Egypt. It was rebuilt on its present site and today is situated just 400 meters away from Bet Lahiye, which is a large Palestinian town in Gaza. The walk ended at a safe lookout point where the visitors could look into Gaza.
After the walking tour ICEJ participant Yvonne Urban, who works in a kindergarten in Germany, said: “It’s difficult to imagine how the large nursery-school we just saw copes in times of emergency. How does the staff get all those kids to safety?"
Next on their agenda was a short bus ride past the tall concrete dividing wall which protects the village from sniper fire. They stopped for a group photograph in front of the iconic huge mural mosaic on one of the concrete barriers.
Later, at the group went to visit the row of security trees planted strategically along the main access road to the moshav, which were donated and planted by the group two years ago. There, the group was met by KKL-JNF’s Arnon Ben Dror. He explained the rationale behind the planting of the row of trees to those that were there for the first time.
“Besides their great ecological value, these trees provide camouflage for people who are driving into the moshav and protect them from missiles and sniper fire from Gaza. This area has also been designated for construction, and these trees will hide the new houses as well.”
Heike Schmitt, who was on her fifth trip to Israel, said that she is fascinated by everything that goes on here.
“I am interested in the history and the political situation. I look for ways to assist Israel. This is the land of God, and what could be better than supporting the land of God?”
Read more about the ICEJ delegation’s visit to Netiv HaAsara on the Gaza Border