For several months now – since at least March – Israel’s southern frontier communities abutting the Gaza Strip have been living under almost constant Hamas-inspired Palestinian terrorism.
Arson terrorism as it was known – the releasing of incendiary kites and balloons, seemingly harmless children’s toys, but with a very real sting in their tails – were sent toward Israel’s arable fields. Carried by the helpful West-East breeze blowing off the Mediterranean Sea, these incendiary devices have scorched around 9,000 acres of agricultural land.
Now the harvest is in and plans for winter planting move on apace. But the terrorists in Gaza are not standing idly by. There is currently less vegetation to burn, so instead of sending kites or balloons with flaming tails, they now send them with hand grenades and crude homemade ordinances attached. That may give it the impression of being harmless, but nothing could be further from the truth. They are intended to wound, to maim and even to kill.
To counter the debilitating effects of the arson terrorism, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ) began a campaign to help communities in Israel’s south. The response was magnificent and prayers for Israel’s safety have been matched by tangible, practical help.
At Kibbutz Magen, a mere four-and-a-half kilometers away from the Gaza border, Christian donations have resulted in the purchasing of bomb shelters. Six of the seven new steel bomb shelters – which are much lighter than the concrete ones, but equally as tough – were donated from ICEJ Switzerland, made possible through the generosity of the Rudolf and Helga Frei family. They were present to dedicate the shelter on Kibbutz Magen, also made possible because of the ICEJ’s strategic partnership with local Israeli non-profit Operation Lifeshield. As Shmuel Bowman, Operation Lifeshield’s Executive Director said, “In partnership with the ICEJ we work to save and protect lives in Israel. Every life is sacred and there are people here who need protection from terrorism.”
ICEJ’s President, Dr. Jurgen Buhler, was also present at the dedication and explained about an amazing coincidence. “The ICEJ wants to always be with the people of Israel. And in its [Israel’s] 70th year, this is the 70th bomb shelter that we have dedicated.”
Both Shoshi Oroni and Gilad Yarkoni, director of the kibbutz and the mayor of the Eshkol region, respectively, welcomed the ICEJ visitors and expressed their gratitude for helping people to feel a little safer.
Yarkoni expressed his personal thanks for the love and understanding that emanated from the ICEJ to the citizens of the Eshkol region. He used the example of the kibbutz children, who had minutes earlier provided a karate demonstration at Magen’s dojo. “It’s a simple thing,” he said. “It’s good for those children to know they have a place to run. Think of all those people connected with these children. We have a greater sense of security now.
Traveling approximately 15 kilometers northwest to Kibbutz Kisufim (literally Yearning), one is struck by how burnt the ground looks and how much damage has been done. Elan Isaacson, Head of Security in the Eshkol Region explained that between 500-600 of the 1,900 fires that have broken out in the region since March have occurred in either Kisufim or Be’eri. He and his team now have 34 fire trailers – each capable of holding 750 liters of water. They are 4×4 vehicles allowing them to traverse terrain that regular fire trucks cannot and despite the invaluable help that fire crews from as far away as the Golan and Haifa provided, they were not familiar with the lay of the land.
Eleven of the 17 fire trailers donated this summer, as the arson terrorism was at its height, were provided by Eagle Mountain International Church from Ft. Worth, Texas. It is clearly a community and a church that practices what it preaches. Part of the Word of Faith evangelical stream and heavily influenced by Pastor Kenneth Copeland, Eagle Mountain is a firm believer in its support of the people of God in the land of God.
There was a mixture of resignation and resolution at the unveiling of the bomb shelter and the fire truck. Resignation that the frontier communities inhabit a world – which is actually difficult to imagine – where implacable foes seem to assess that they can dislodge Jewish communities through terrorism. The resolution part was equally obvious; the people in Israel’s southern communities are there to stay. They haven’t anywhere else to go.