On Wednesday afternoon residents of the Jewish communities of Bat Ayin and Gevaot were evacuated after Palestinians set fire to nearby fields. A number of houses were damaged by the fires and four people were treated for smoke inhalation. Four firefighting airplanes were called to help firemen.
Bat Ayin is a religious community in Gush Etzion, halfway between Jerusalem and Hebron, established in 1989. The name of the town means “pupil of the eye” and is from a verse in the Bible.
For thus said God of Hosts—He who sent me after glory—concerning the nations that have taken you as spoil: “Whoever touches you touches the pupil of his own eye. Zechariah 2:12
Bat Ayin has frequently been targeted by arson attacks and this attack is especially difficult coming at a time when incendiary kites and balloons sent from Gaza have burned thousands of acres in southern Israel.
Amnon Suckerberg was at home with his five children when smoke enveloped their house. He immediately called the police and security but they were delayed due to difficult access routes to the area. Suckerberg and his neighbors tried to extinguish the fire themselves but to no avail.
“It was terrifying,” Suckerberg told Breaking Israel News. “The Arabs set the fire in the forest and the wind spread so quickly in the dry bush we barely had time to get out of the house. The entire town had to leave until we were sure we were out of danger.”
A bitter tragedy was narrowly averted in this attack as the flames came very close to several hundred trees recently planted by Israel 365 and its supporters.
Shlomo Vile, the PPC director for Israel365, is a resident Bat Ayin and also took part in planting the trees.
“If the wind had shifted just a tiny bit, that would have been the end of them,” Vile told Breaking Israel News.
Vile explained the importance of the trees to the community.
“The people of Bat Ayin have a powerful awareness of God’s presence protecting them and for most of their history did not have a fence,” Vile said. “When we came to Bat Ayin, there were no trees here. After this attack, we need to plant more trees. The Jewish response to loss has always been to plant and to build. We sift through the ashes and plant again. This will end. We will eventually win and planting trees is the way to show that, to show the truth that this land is really ours and will always be ours.”