Reciprocal Incendiary Balloons

Palestinians and their allies characterize Gaza as an open-air prison. Gaza is under siege by Israel until the Hamas government recognizes Israel’s right to exist and renounces violence against Israel. The border of Gaza with Israel is controlled by the Israeli army which rebuffs attempts by residents of Gaza to violently crash through the border fence. The coast is blockaded by the Israeli navy. An unintended but welcome consequence of the closed borders is the absence of coronavirus in Gaza.

Among residents of Gaza, a satisfying form of low-technology recreation, growing in popularity, is launching balloons. To enhance the excitement of this activity, incendiary and explosive devises are attached to the balloons. Since the wind generally blows from west to east, incendiary and explosive balloons released in Gaza often drift eastward into Israel. Barrages of incendiary balloons have started numerous fires in southern Israel. Many trees and much agricultural land have been burned.

Israelis should understand that the balloonists in Gaza are really playing a game with Israel. The players do not intend to harm any Israelis or cause serious damage to the environment or property in Israel. They add incendiary and explosive devises to their balloons merely to attract the attention of Israelis who might be sympathetic to their plight. Following the golden rule of altruistic reciprocity, the incendiary balloonists in Gaza are challenging the Israelis to do unto them as they have done unto Israel. However, the Israelis cannot reciprocate by launching their own incendiary balloons from land because unfavorable winds will often blow them toward Israel instead of Gaza.

Happily, the Israeli naval blockade will enable Israeli balloonists to reciprocate by sending incendiary balloons to Gaza from ships in the Mediterranean Sea. Israel can stockpile large inventories of incendiary balloons on its naval ships off the Gaza coast. In contrast to their counterparts in Gaza, Israeli naval balloonists will not add explosive devices to their incendiary balloons because Israelis want to avoid producing disproportionate civilian casualties in densely populated Gaza. Whenever residents of Gaza release incendiary and explosive balloons toward Israel, Israeli sailors can promptly reciprocate by releasing incendiary balloons toward Gaza, provided the wind direction is favorable. Of course, since a balloon’s trajectory cannot be controlled, some reciprocal balloons may land in the Mediterranean Sea, or in Israel, the West Bank, or Jordan. Hopefully, Israeli reciprocity will motivate Gazans to fly balloons without explosive or incendiary devices attached.

About the Author
Ted Sheskin is a professor emeritus of industrial engineering at Cleveland State University, and the author of a textbook, Markov Chains and Decision Processes for Engineers and Managers. He has published peer-reviewed papers on engineering systems and mathematical algorithms. His letters to editors addressing politics, economic policy, and issues facing Israel and American Jews have appeared in the NY Times, Daily News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Jewish News, Jewish Week, the Forward, and Jewish Voice.
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