Atlanta businessman Allan Zachariah, a member of the Jewish National Fund’s Century Council, recently returned from witnessing the fire-ravaged communities along the Gaza border. That’s where flaming kites have set fire to large swaths of land.
Zachariah visited the Eshkol region of Israel in early June and saw up close the damage caused by the incendiary kites.
“These kites are being used as a new form of terrorism against our people and we should be supporting them, (JNF) during this time of need,” said Zachariah, who is co-CEO of Pathstone, a wealth management company. “We have an opportunity to support our brothers and sisters in the Western Negev who are living in fear and danger.”
Since March, more than 450 incendiary kites, balloons, and rockets have been launched from Gaza towards the communities of Eshkol and Sha’ar HaNegev, destroying more than 6,500 acres of agricultural land and forests that the people rely on as their main source of income and economic development, JNF reports. For the region’s children, a familiar and seemingly safe object, a kite, has now become a symbol of terror and fear, JNF said.
Responding to the fires, JNF donors from around the country have provided emergency support in the form of nine new fire wagons.
“The fire wagons can reach deep into the fields and places that regular trucks cannot, and they have greater extinguishing abilities. The sooner you get to the site where an incendiary balloon hits the ground, it minimizes the damage,” said Yoram Levi, spokesperson for Israel Fire and Rescue Services.
The existing fire stations in the area can have a response time of 15 minutes, but having local firefighters and fire wagons has cut the waiting time down to two to three minutes, JNF reported.
In a show of strength and solidarity, people from around the region and the world are doing their part to help. Local kibbutzim have allocated housing and meals for firefighters, who are staying on-site at all times; volunteers have joined the firefighting efforts; JNF forestry workers are trying to stop the spread of the fires; and the Israel Defense Forces has provided off-road vehicles and reserve firefighters to help efforts.
In the United States, JNF lay leadership maintained constant updates and fundraising efforts through social media, local campaigns, and personal support of fundraising.