It’s February, and that means that the Western Negev is carpeted with lush green and red polka-dots; the green carpets being the verdant fields that have sprouted, as well as the natural foliage, and the red polka-dots are the poppies which have become the calling card for the south. Unfortunately, there are two kinds of “red” down here: the red of the delicate anemones and the red alerts warning of rockets, violently encroaching on our lives, from Gaza.
The artisans, small businesses and restaurants down here toil and plan all year long, waiting patiently for February to roll around. We don’t get a lot of tourism down here normally, so February is the month that helps all those who are reliant on the tourist industry in some way, to stay in the green, keeping their noses above water.
Unfortunately, our “neighbors” have other plans. Compliments of Hamas-Gaza, who have reared their nasty heads this past week, the exploding balloons along with sporadic rocket fire are threatening to put a damper on the whole festival. So here’s the low-down: most of the time, it’s quiet and peaceful. Even these days, when balloons are being launched, I, personally, have never seen one with my own eyes. I’ve heard them exploding in the air (and it isn’t the most pleasant feeling) but have never encountered any of the threatening balloon bouquets. The rockets are sporadic, but we have advance warning, and that too, does not happen all that often. (Having said that, even having that happen once is unacceptable and too often.) The IDF are out in force to keep us all safe. Today, when I went out of my kibbutz on the border to take pictures of the anemones that are just beginning to bloom down here, a little later than just a few kilometers up north, I was stopped by 2 serious but sweet soldiers who told me where I could and couldn’t drive. I was allowed to walk to my poppy field, but not drive to the line of trees where I love to take photos from – about a kilometer away from the border. As long as you heed their instructions, there’s no reason why you would really be in danger at any time. As our security officer here tells me: this is the safest place in the country because the IDF have all eyes and ears on us. 24/7. I trust them with my life.
Many people ask me: “What can we do to help?”
I would not encourage anyone to do anything they were uncomfortable doing, but if you are not too unnerved about coming down here, and want to do something to support your brothers and sisters in the south, please see this as a personal invitation to come down and visit our 95% Heaven. After all, statistically, there is a much higher risk of getting hit by an electric bike, than there is being wounded by a balloon or rocket. But do we stay in our beds all day? No! We go out into the world and cross that street! Looking both ways, not taking any chances, heeding instructions, but we venture out of the safety of our homes. Every. Single. Day.
Our people really need you now. We need you both from the financial aspect of tourists coming to spend some money down here buying quality goods and services, and no less importantly: to invest your time showing that you have our backs. Otherwise, terror wins.