Can anything evoke optimism and joie de vivre more vividly than a kite –large, brightly- colored, soaring into the sky, with a beaming child on the ground clutching its long string? But on the Gaza border in recent weeks, the kite has sadly become a weapon in the hands of violent Gaza protesters intent on setting fire to Israeli forests and fields.
The smell of smoke that assails us from every side and the sound of drones and quadcopters hovering overhead present a stark contrast to the pastoral atmosphere of this rural area. But that’s how life is here, where the smallest spark can ignite a major conflagration.
“Instead of enjoying the pleasant breeze that blows in from the sea in the afternoons, we’re forced to cope every day with dozens of fires caused by kites carrying flammable substances,” says KKL-JNF Western Negev Region Director Danny Ben David. “In the past month and a half over 120 fires have broken out here and about 1,300 dunam of woodland have been burned [approx. 320 acres] – and that doesn’t include the farmland that has gone up in smoke.”
Beeri, Kfar Aza, Kissufim, Nir Am, Nahal Oz, Re‘im and Saad are among the communities whose fields have suffered kite-induced fires, together with the Eshkol region’s Shaar HaNegev and Sdot Negev, both of which are also near the Gaza border. Apart from causing millions of shekels’ worth of damage to farmers, these fires also endanger local residents and impair their quality of life.
“Hamas is trying to disrupt our lives, but we continue to work our fields right up to the last furrow beside the border,” declared farmer Danny Rahamim of Kibbutz Nahal Oz. “For a farmer, watching his fields burn stabs at the heart in a way no one else can understand. A great deal of financial damage is caused, months of work go up in smoke and it’s just sad. I’ve been living on this kibbutz for over forty years, and nothing’s going to move me from here. We’re planted too deep in the soil to abandon it.”
Read more, see photos of the KKL-JNF firefighting efforts on the Gaza Border.