Photo: Carmia Nature Reserve, courtesy of Nature and Parks Authority

Southern Israel, especially the areas adjacent to the Gaza Strip, has been suffering since late March from “arson terror” – Palestinians near the Gaza-Israel border release kites and balloons with attached incendiary material. The wind blows the kites and balloons to the Israeli side, causing fires that have destroyed thousands of acres of crops and grazing lands, forests and nature reserves.


From 30 March to 12 August this year, there have been 1,364 fires – an average of more than 10 fires every day. Over 7,400 acres have been damaged or destroyed, about 23% of the land in the region. Much of the summer wheat crop was lost, either to the fires or due to too-early harvesting. Hundreds of chickens and turkeys suffocated to death from smoke inhalation. People with asthma and other lung diseases are also suffering from the polluted air. In Nahal Grar, dozens of beehives, each with about 70,000 bees and 30-50 kilos of honey, were destroyed by fire.


Farmers in the affected areas have filed 185 claims for compensation, valued at around 3 million USD. But the real cost is much higher: the entire eco-system of the western Negev has been affected. Trees that have stood for generations – preventing soil erosion, improving the carbon footprint and providing a habitat for birds and animals – have been destroyed. Wildlife – birds, turtles, snakes and lizards, jackals, foxes and wolves, wild boars, hedgehogs, bees and other insects – have been killed or lost their homes and their food sources. Experts estimate that it will take decades for the area to recover.


The Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Services reports a large increase in the number of people seeking treatment at Hosen Centers, which offer psychological-emotional support and therapy. In centers located throughout the northern and western Negev (Eshkol, Hof Ashkelon, Shaar HaNegev, Sderot and Sdot Negev), 834 people were treated between March 21 and July 1 – a 308% increase over the period from January through March 20.

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Noam Bedein is a director of the Sderot Media Center. It is a media advocacy center which portrays the human face of Sderot and southern Israel under siege, to the international media and public. Noam, a native of Tzfat, grew up in Efrat, Israel. After finishing the Beit El Yeshiva High School, Noam learned at a pre-Army training program in the Jordan Valley and then served for three years as an IDF sergeant for an artillery scout unit along the Lebanese border. After the army, Noam served as an emissary for The Jewish Agency in Boston, Massachusetts and then traveled for a year in the Far East. Upon his return to Israel, Noam relocated to Sderot and pioneered the “Sderot Media Center for the Western Negev Ltd", which has spawned the Sderot Media Center. In this position, Noam is a photojournalist, lecturer and gives briefings to foreign government officials, embassies, foreign press and student groups from around the world.


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