Fighting fire, under fire

“The arson terror kites and balloons come in the afternoon and the evening, sometimes in the middle of the night.”

That’s when the winds pick up, blowing from the sea, inland, carrying Hamas’s flying firebombs to the people of Israel.

Israeli firefighter Tal Goldstein stood in the sweltering heat, telling us about a more terrible heat (I had gone a special tour to see the impact of Hamas attacks on southern Israel): “It is our nightmare that a firebomb kite or balloon will land on the roof of a home in the middle of the night, when everyone is asleep. A family could be burned alive.”

Many who follow the news about Israel take note of missile bombardments that send Israelis racing to bomb shelters. How many truly understand the battle against arson terrorism?

Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, openly states that their goal is the destruction of Israel.

They tried to attack Israel by land and failed.

They tried to attack Israel underground, spending millions meant to assist the people of Gaza, to build attack tunnels that would allow Hamas commandos to burst from the ground and surprise Israelis (some tunnels targeted civilians, others military installations). They failed at that too.

Plying their ingenuity to destruction, Hamas came up with an ingenious and diabolical solution – firebombs delivered by kites and balloons. Children’s toys perverted into weapons of war, to attack through the air. These weapons don’t need to be imported from Iran. They are cheap, easy to come by and to the international media, look innocent, even romantic.

Many media sources have published highly stylized photos of masked Gazans preparing kites.  Who is taking note of the Israelis suffering from daily arson attacks?

There is no mention of Israeli farmers who have lost a year’s work, a year’s income in one fire.

There is no notice of the ecological disaster of torched nature reserves. The small animals, too slow or too young to run from the flames, burnt alive.

Tsvi Ben Chimol‎

The larger animals, deer, jackals, wild pigs and even hyenas could escape the flames but have nowhere to return to – their food sources are gone, their hiding places are gone. Land rejuvenates after fires but that is when the fires are natural and singular. These are repeated fires and their damage has reached deep into the earth, burning the seed banks eliminating them as a possible source for regrowth.

Environmentalism is a popular interest but not, it seems, when it is the environment Israelis are forced to live in. Standard carbon emissions are nothing in comparison to being forced to breathe poisoned air day after day after day…

I experienced a single day of arson terrorism. The sky was full of smoke, the air in our home, although we had sealed all the doors and windows, was thick and difficult to breathe. The smoke permeated our clothes, the stench seemed embedded in our skin.

And that was just one day.

Can you imagine living in this reality day after, for months on end?! When you imagine that you will have the opportunity to begin to breathe freely again, you discover that while there is no fire in your community, there are fires raging in neighboring communities.

An air pollution expert spoke to us about the long-term effects of the fires. Unlike breathing in smoke from a bonfire or bbq where the effects are temporary, here people are breathing in microscopic particles that are so small they get embedded in the lungs and the body does not excrete them. These can have a carcinogenic effect, similar to breathing in asbestos particles. As we are still in the midst of the fires, with no end in sight, it is impossible to accurately foresee the impact this type of warfare will have on the health of the Israeli population.

What I do know now is that my friend who lives in Be’eri, near the Gaza border has reported that she is having difficulty breathing and has to use her asthma pump all the time – which she has not had to do in years. Needless to say, this kind of air quality can have immediate and possibly even deadly impact on asthmatics, the very young or the elderly.

Kite firebombs don’t sound like a real threat. Balloons sound even sillier (especially when the balloons are made from inflated condoms) but this is no game.

Kites have been found up to 40 kilometers from Gaza (24.8 miles!). Just a few days ago a balloon firebomb was found in Be’ersheba (approximately 40 kilometers from Gaza).

Brush fires occur in Israel but they are not prevalent as they are in places like Australia or California. Our homes are not made of wood, fires that do occur inside tend to be from problems in the electric wiring or with heaters in the winter. Now Israel’s firefighters are battling flames around the clock.

We laughed when, a few years ago, Israel’s firefighting service changed their name from the original Hebrew utilitarian descriptive name: “Fire Extinguishers” to the more evocative: “Fire Warriors”. Now there is no name that could be more appropriate.

Tal told us about his experiences battling flames. He belongs to the Ashkelon fire department, the biggest in the area. Most of the fires they have managed to extinguish within 15 minutes but a few they battled for three days. Thanks to the volunteers who have arrived from all over the country to assist, the firefighters have succeeded in containing most of the fires.

All firefighters risk themselves to protect others but Israel’s fire warriors have had to fight fire, under fire – with snipers shooting at them and sometimes mortar bombs falling. They have no choice but to hit the ground and cover their heads hoping the mortar bombs won’t kill them and then get up and continue to battle the flames.

fighting fire under fire - July 14th

Heroism doesn’t label itself heroic. There is nothing self-serving or glory-chasing in the true hero. Men (and some women), like Tal are quietly getting the job done, protecting the people, the land, our animals, trying to keep the air as clean as possible – doing the hard work because, if they don’t, who will?

5 thoughts on “Fighting fire, under fire

  1. I read that US firefighter volunteers who have experience with these kinds of fires are now on the front lines of the fires & dangers of being shot at.
    I’m a registered nurse so I know about the I’ll effects of the smoke & carcinogens that affect more than the lungs. And, remind people that Hamas was burning tires which have just as bad an effect to those breathing it. And, yes, how frightening it must be for those who live nearby. And, in Beer Sheva? And, I read where a ballon with fire bomb fell in a children’s play area. One alert boy noticed it. Thankfully, the adults were able to get the children to safety, & it did not explode
    Also, there was an article about how Hamas is using birds such as a hawk that was found dead with firebomb still on him.
    You are right! Where are the environmentalists or the Humane Society? Where is their outrage?
    When fires burned in Yellowstone National Park & in Yosemite National Park, there was outrage.
    The problem is that people don’t understand how Israelis have created such beautiful natural reserves and growing produce in land that was barren when the Arabs used the area to graze sheep & never cared about the land. It was Israelis who tilled the land, found ways to bring irrigation & make the desert into an oasis.
    I personally believe that Israel needs to take the offensive & bomb Gaza!


  2. No matter what else anybody says, this is war. It does bring death and destruction, and it is a fight that must be fought by Israel. First, we consider damages and the Gazans are fighting a so far, successful war. There has been no effective deterrent or a valid response. This is a breach of the truce they asked for, and it needs to be punished.
    The second part is harder. You have to convince the world that your reaction is legitimate and that you had the right. But you also can’t wait for the Court of World Opinion to agree with any reaction Israel may take. They will never agree with any action Israel may take. The leaders of other countries would do much more than Israel has done so far. Israel must act quickly.
    There is a solution that nobody has used yet. Some Gazans might die, but they won’t be innocent. Bring in and use armed drones. They can shoot a flying firebomb as soon as its heat signature is recognized, and they can hunt down the launchers as well.


    1. Many of the kites are being shot down before they reach us. Balloons are more difficult because they go up so high they are hard to see before they begin to come back down


  3. This is cowardly yet disasterous warfare. My heart aches for these precious people who are living through this in the south of Israel. Your article will be sent out on our weekly newsletter to keep people aware of the pervasive, longtime impact of the kites and balloons on both people and the environment. Sometime ago you said you would be interest like to see our weekly newsletter for Christians and those who support Israel around the world. How shall we send you the contact information for it? You can write us at the email below.


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