ICEJ Fire-Fighting Equipment Put to Daily Use

By: Laurina Driesse

It is a beautiful blue-sky day. In the distance, something is coming closer… balloons and more balloons gently floating on the breeze. The bright, colourful kind normally used for joyous occasions. But not this time, and certainly not for Israelis living near the Gaza border!

Sadly, terrorists in Gaza once again spent the entire month of August inflating balloons, rigging them with fire-bomb devices, and waiting for the sea breeze to carry them eastward over the border to sow destruction in nearby Israeli fields and orchards.

August is the peak of the summer dry season, and the southwest trade winds off the Mediterranean pick up every afternoon. Conditions are perfect for wildfires to ignite and quickly spread. It is hard to imagine living like this – not knowing where the next fire will start, or whether your child will be drawn to a colourful fire balloon or kite which could detonate in their hands.

This is the third summer now that terror groups in Gaza have used this twisted tactic to scorch the fields and orchards of their Israeli neighbours. Local security chiefs in southern Israel had their hands full as the number of fire kites and balloons jumped dramatically this summer. In the Sha’ar HaNegev region, first responders faced more than 425 brush fires in one two-week period. Meanwhile in the adjacent Eshkol region, security officer Elan Isaacson confirmed that they, too, were battling 25 to 30 fires a day!

“Beautiful forests and nature reserves are being ruined,” Isaacson told ICEJ. “Pomegranate and avocado orchards have been destroyed.”

For the local Israeli farmers, this is a devasting loss of the fruit of their labours. Pomegranate trees take at least two to three years to bear fruit and another seven months for the fruit to mature. The pomegranate also is an important symbol for the Jewish fall holidays of Rosh HaShana and Sukkot. And the loss of the avocado harvest is equally heart-breaking, as these fruit trees take up to six or seven years to bear fruit.

When these acts of arson first began in 2018, the ICEJ was asked to help the affected Israeli communities combat the fires destroying their livelihoods. Thanks to generous Christian donors, we were able to provide 18 fire-fighting trailers and five specially-equipped ATVs to the farming villages along the Gaza border.

Each fire-trailer is equipped with a large water tank, pump, generator and hoses which can be hooked to 4×4 vehicles so they can reach all kinds of terrain. The ATVs have similar fire-fighting equipment and are quicker and more agile to get to the back of the fields and orchards within minutes. These fire-fighter trailers and ATVs are now stationed every two kilometers along the Gaza border and are constantly on alert to fight the rash of fires started by incendiary balloons.

“It is so gratifying to know that all this fire-fighting equipment we provided over recent years is being put to such good use every day,” said Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for Aid and Aliyah. “Our donations have enabled these communities to respond in real-time whenever emergencies arise, strengthening our friends and helping bring a sense of security to those living so close to danger.”

There is still a need for more fire-fighting equipment which will enable local first responders to protect their fields and families even better. So please consider giving to our Israel in Crisis fund.