“For over 20 years now we have been coping with rocket fire from across the border, and the portable shelters that KKL-JNF has placed here will quite simply save lives,” said Amnon Ziv, director of security at Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, after KKL-JNF had donated fourteen new shelters for use in the agricultural expanses of local kibbutzim.
Near Kibbutz Karmia, Ziv examined the new shelter that had been placed at the edge of the fields. “There are marvelous communities here,” he said. “We need to strengthen them and help people to carry on with their lives as normal. Thanks to these moveable shelters, farming in the area can continue to flourish.”
This, of course, is not the first time that KKL-JNF has donated shelters of this kind to communities in southern Israel and the Gaza Periphery. With the help of its Friends worldwide, KKL-JNF looks out for the safety of residents of the region, while simultaneously supporting a wide range of other projects related to settlement, agriculture, water, education and tourism.
Dudu Michael, a farmer at Kibbutz Zikim, cultivates a variety of organic vegetables, and a new shelter has been placed near the packing house adjacent to the kibbutz fields. “Thanks to this shelter, we shall be able to keep working even when the security situation is tense,” he said. “After all, we can’t just abandon the fields, even when it’s dangerous to move around outside. A lot of people here work in agriculture, and we have to keep them safe.”
The large trucks that transported the shelters and the huge crane that lifted them into place spent a long day winding their way along the farm access roads between the fields. Local residents, observing the activity with curiosity, were pleased to see that an improvement in their personal security was to be expected, and, no less importantly, they saw that they had not been forgotten and that there are people who continue to consider their needs and take care of them.
Yoav Elul, director of the Palgei Nahal Packing House at Kibbutz Zikim, was likewise provided with a shelter close to his place of work. If you have a taste for lettuce, parsley and coriander, he’s your man. “Now we shall be able to work in dangerous times, too, even if there’s mortar fire,” he said. “When the alert sounds, we have fifteen seconds to scramble to safely, so it’s important to have as many of these shelters as possible scattered everywhere we can.”
David Ben Saadon specializes in growing lettuce for the ultra-Orthodox sector, a task that demands special care and attention to ensure that no insects or grubs remain concealed among the leaves. He explains that farmers can’t ever take a break, even in wartime. “We never leave the fields. No matter how serious the situation is, we keep working day and night. These portable shelters are vital, because the moment there’s an alert they give us somewhere to run to and take cover.”
Gadi Hazan, another Kibbutz Zikim farmer, grows a variety of seasonal vegetables. At present his greenhouses are dominated by chili peppers, but, for those who lack enthusiasm for things hot and spicy, there are also beetroot and celery. Rockets have already fallen on his farm four times. The greenhouses were damaged, but, by great good luck, none of the workers in the area was injured.
“Until now, when the alert sounded, we had nowhere to go, so we just used to lie on the ground and pray that we’d be safe. Now we have a place that protects us,” he said. “I very much hope that we won’t need this shelter – but if we do, it’ll clearly be a life-saver.”