Encountering Heroes and Builders on Scorched Land

A day in the life of firefighters, volunteers and residents near the Gaza border, in the face of kite terror. While KKL-JNF teams help battle the flames, local residents continue to live.

Extinguishing fires in Be'eri Forest (photo credit: MOSHE BARUCHI/KKL-JNF FORESTER)
Extinguishing fires in Be'eri Forest
(photo credit: MOSHE BARUCHI/KKL-JNF FORESTER)
With the launch of the first incendiary kites from Gaza on April 11, 2018, a new kind of terrorism began in the agricultural fields, forests, and nature reserves in the Gaza envelope region. With hundreds of fires, enormous damage to flora and fauna, destruction of Gaza border agriculture, and over 2,400 acres of burned forest, the kite terrorism continues on a daily basis. KKL-JNF firefighting teams keep up their work, fighting for every tree and every clod of burned soil. On August 1, 2018, we embarked on a day-long trip to the scorched land, visiting the residential communities and forests of the northern and western Negev, to see the damage caused by the fires and how residents cope in the shadow of this ongoing terrorism.
The landscapes that we saw were tinged with the yellow of summer and the black of the fires’ devastation. The acrid smell of smoke hit us from all directions while we were still on the road, and in the forests we could see the fire trucks, together with civilian and army vehicles and water tankers.
A Missile Proof School Building in Sha’ar Hanegev
In the Negev, many things that we are used to thinking of as happy and safe have become threatening and sad — such as kites, balloons, and even school buildings.
The construction of a reinforced school building for the Sha’ar Hanegev School, which serves the children of the eleven residential communities of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, is being completed. Despite the difficulties of living here, the residential communities are growing, making it necessary to expand the regional school.
We entered the construction area, where the workers are putting the finishing touches on the school buildings. Special reinforced netting over the roof will prevent rockets from reaching the building. The computer room is located in the bomb shelter. An external classroom in the inner yard of the building is almost completed, and one can almost hear the joyful voices of children in the classrooms.
Wide dirt pathways wind around the buildings. It is hard to imagine them filled with greenery, as they soon will be. 
Among the blackened landscapes, we saw oases of optimism and people of strength, who are determined to live their lives and grow here. KKL-JNF is here for them. You can help, too.