My name is Adele. I live on a kibbutz about a mile from the border with the Gaza Strip. I work full time, and yet: my Zionism keeps me very busy over and above my hours of working as a teacher and a teacher trainer, of being a mother and a grandmother, of being a kibbutz member. My Zionism has me at my computer every night, documenting the arson fires that are taking place in our fields and forests.
Last year I started a Google Map to show as many of the fires that were started by flaming kites and balloons launched from Gaza, as I could. These tools of arson are launched to destroy that which we, and those who came before us, have built and nurtured. To set our fields ablaze. To destroy the beautiful forests which many of you have paid for over the decades, through JNF. All those trees you planted in memory of loved ones, to commemorate happy occasions, or just to green Israel and “make the desert bloom”. They are the targets.
Unfortunately, these fires are not often reported abroad. They barely catch the attention of the media here, since we have so many other things going on that captivates the Israeli public’s attention: security concerns in the north, Gay Pride Parade, horrific road accidents, escalating rocket attacks, scandals with politcians. All newsworthy, and all more captivating than the fires that are happening down here, which have become like white noise for most of the country. News consumers get bored with recurring incidents.
Because of that, I sit by my computer each night and bear witness from my home in the middle of the Gaza Envelope. I started last year, shortly after the fires began, because I believed that it was important to have a graphic representation of what is really happening down here. Because of this map, I was flown to Geneva last November, to bear witness for an independant UN committee of inquiry.
Each night, before I go to bed, I collect information from my numerous sources and upload the places and dates. I include photos or films when I have them. Red flames indicate places and dates of fires. Yellow ones include photographs. Orange ones have clips which I have mostly uploaded and linked from YouTube. Some of my sources are official, others are unofficial but totally reliable, since they are on the ground, witnessing it first hand. Where the heat and smoke devour their fields. As of today, there are over 1,060 pins on this map. I sit here and follow our brave soldiers and firefighters from the safety of my desk. Sometimes I can smell it. Most times, not. I follow them virtually as they chase down the balloons, trying to be there when they land, to lessen the damage. I read their frustration when the fires are so close to the border, that they are warned by their commanders not to get near unless they are totally hidden from potential sniper fire. Most of those fighting the fires are soldiers rather than the fire brigade, because any fire that takes place west of Route 232 (and most of them do, as seen in the map of fires), can only be fought by soldiers, rather than the fire department. Sometimes, when the fires are too close to the border fence, the soldiers are relegated to the sidelines, away from the sights of the snipers’ guns, forbidden from doing anything but just observing from a safe distance, as another wheat field goes up in smoke.
We here, in the Western Negev, have experienced 11 escalations of violence over the past year (and 18 years of the longest war of attrition in our history). The fires are a dangerous lead-up to more violence. Until our government starts leading by setting clear and transparent policy that ensures security for those of us who live down here, there is little hope that this will change any time soon. And there are more and more fires each day. Yesterday there were 15. Did you know that? Probably not. Please help me spread the word. Please share this post, and share the Map of Fires. Please keep us in your thoughts and hearts.