Planting Life in Gaza Envelope Communities

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 1:01 PM

In the shadow of fires caused by 'kite terror' from Gaza, Gaza border residents are planting more trees, as a symbol of life and hope.

Beneath the shadow of the incendiary kites that have caused such serious damage to the farmland, forests and ecology of southern Israel, KKL-JNF has joined a Gaza periphery residents’ initiative entitled ‘they burn, we plant’, and will supply local communities with saplings for planting events during the coming week.
The continuing kite terrorism has so far caused around 250 fires in which 282 hectares of forest and woodland have been burned. Extensive areas of farmland belonging to Gaza border communities have also gone up in smoke, causing serious financial damage and great distress to farmers, who have watched all their labor come to nothing.
For two months now KKL-JNF staff in the organization’s Southern Region have pitched in to help with the vital task of minimizing the incendiary kites’ damage to the Gaza periphery’s residents, forests and fields. These KKL-JNF teams use the Beeri Forest firewatchers’ tower, which was built with donations from KKL-JNF’s Friends in the Scandinavian countries, to identify and locate sites where blazes have broken out.
Together with the local Fire and Rescue Services, the IDF and Israel Police, KKL-JNF staff in the south continue to labor intensively to put out the fires, while at the same time trying to estimate the damage and how long it will take to rehabilitate the woodlands that have gone up in smoke. Firetrucks that KKL-JNF has acquired thanks to donations from its Friends in Argentina, Germany and the USA are deployed throughout the region, bolstered by the addition of another truck purchased with the help of KKL Czech Republic, which has now been requisitioned from northern Israel.  Among the forests damaged by the fires are Beeri, Kissufim, Shokeda, Sderot, Nahal Hanun and those of the Besor area.
During a recent tour of the south, KKL-JNF World Chairman Danny Atar promised to sue Hamas for the destruction the incendiary kites have wreaked upon southern forests and open spaces: “The damage caused to farmland and KKL-JNF forests is unprecedented,” he said. “We won’t let Hamas get away with this: it will have to pay for its criminal actions against the citizens of Israel, nature and the environment. We are joining forces with the residents of the Gaza envelope and embarking upon a planting campaign that will send a clear message: we are living and growing mightily here, and we are stronger and more united than ever.”
In the shadow of kite terrorism, the residents of the Gaza envelope decided to do something that would symbolize life and hope for growth and prosperity. In a place where others burn and destroy, they set out to plant new trees throughout the local communities, under the banner ‘they burn, we plant’.
On Thursday, June 7th, 2018, the initial planting event took place at Kibbutz Or HaNer, which is situated in the area under the jurisdiction of Shaar HaNegev Regional Council. KKL-JNF’s Gilat Nursery suppled local residents with fifty carob, fig, pomegranate, black mulberry and flame-tree (Delonix regia) saplings. Soldiers from the northern brigade of the IDF’s Gaza division, Brigade Commander Colonel Avi Rosenfeld and KKL-JNF Board of Directors member Ofir Libstein, who lives nearby on Kibbutz Kfar Aza, were among those who took part in the Or HaNer planting.
Ofir Libstein, who initiated the planting event, told those present: “The kites have destroyed a great many forests and woodlands here in our region, and we have decided to work together as a community in order to restore to nature that which has been taken from it. Apart from the economic damage, Gaza periphery residents have also suffered a blow to their morale, and we have decided to make a concerted community effort to change the situation. Local residents, families and children have all enlisted in this initiative, and we have planted the trees. This is the inauguratory event, and we shall continue to plant trees in the days to come.”
On Friday, June 8th, 2018, another planting event was held at Kibbutz Nahal Oz, with the participation of one hundred and fifty residents of the kibbutz. KKL-JNF provided the kibbutz with forty-three eucalyptus, brachychiton, jacaranda, tipa (Tipuana tipu) and flame-tree saplings, and these were planted in a corner of the children’s farm on the kibbutz, where there is also a petting zoo.
Planting events will continue this week as an expression of local residents’ desire to unite and confront the kite terrorism and the damage it causes. These border communities choose to cleave to life and seek to deepen their roots in their homes.