Palestinians from the Gaza Strip once again launched burning kites at civilian communities on the Israeli side of the border Tuesday, setting hundreds of dunams of farmland alight adjacent to Kibbutz Nir Am, Sapir College and Netiv Ha’Asara.
Ofer Liberman, the general manager of Nir Am’s farming operation, said the kibbutz has sustained dozens of kite attacks over the past month, in addition to rocket and mortar attacks that have set fire to the kibbutz wheat fields in recent years. He said the attacks have cost the kibbutz more than NIS 1 million in economic damages, but added that the challenge here is far greater than dollars and cents.
“Look at this field,” he told TPS while surveying the damage from the latest attack. “They burned about 50 dunams – that’s about NIS 25,000 shekels in economic losses. But that can be made up with one shipment of wheat from Europe or the United States.
“The far more serious issue is the notion of Israel’s sovereignty here. That’s why the most important thing I do every morning is to raise the Israeli flag onto the tractors. I want the Palestinians to know and understand that we aren’t going anywhere.”
Despite the community’s steadfast commitment to developing the area – Nir Am is currently building 45 new housing units, and Liberman said the new homes have been completely taken by young families seeking membership in the kibbutz, meaning they see a long-term future here.
Still, the threat posed by the burning kites is unlike the challenge that border communities have faced from cross-border missiles since the year 2000, for the simple fact that they appear to be undetectable until it is too late to stop them: Standing in the community’s garage, just 500 meters from the wheat field, there was no indication of an attack until Liberman looked over the road and saw plume of black smoke rising. When we arrived less than five minutes later, the field was half-burned; 10 minutes later the thriving wheat crop had turned to ash.