As a child growing up, the land of Israel was sacred. Every year in Tu Bishvat (Jewish holiday of the New Year of Trees) , we went to plant trees. This initiative was done by the JNF (Jewish National Fund) to forest Israel, and plant more trees. If someone managed to harm this togetherness of nature, it was seen as a negative thing. To have a fire was seen as the worst.
In the past few weeks, Israel was collided with a bombardment from Gaza, resulted in over 70 mortar shells striking in southern Israel. These attacks, became the largest barrage since 2014, during Operation Protective Edge. During the barrage, one shell hit a tree in the yard of a kindergarten shortly before children were due to arrive. Mortar shells were aimed with the intent of attacking Israel, specifically toward its citizens. Thankfully, the Iron Dome’s interceptions of the majority of the incoming mortar shells marked a significant improvement for the missile defense system.
The cease-fires between Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, started unofficially at the end of May. Since then, the shooting renewed from Gaza. Rockets, missiles, and from time to time, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would retaliate. To be clear, the IDF is not interested in escalation.
Since the start of the protests at the Gaza border, there have been more than 200 fires in the Gaza periphery, destroying more than 4,300 acres of land, the majority of it in nature reserves and parks. According to the Nature and parks Authority, approximately 2,471 acres in parks and reserves in southern Israel were burned. These attacks were the continuation of those that Hamas, along with the Islamic Jihad, included the throwing of Molotov cocktails towards the border fence, sending burning kites from Gaza, which ended up burning thousands of fields, causing millions of shekels of damage. Marches of incited mobs toward the fence went on for weeks at the border of Israel. At least 60 Palestinians were killed in clashes — almost all of them Hamas operatives, the terror group has acknowledged.
The IDF retaliated, and in doing so, exposed terror targets. Unfortunately, not to our surprise, Israel found the 10th tunnel that led into Israel. Who knows what kind of terror could have occurred in Israel, had this not been foreseen. As U.S. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley so candidly asked the United Nations Security Council, “Who among us would accept this type of activity on your border?”
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. This resulted in a 2007 takeover from Hamas. But who becomes the victim of this? The people of Gaza. Hamas money goes to terror activities, and military-style weapons. Not for reconstruction or the welfare of its people. Gazans are sacrificed for Hamas’ cynical plans. Israel continues to hope for peace. Golda Meir once said peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us. Israel will and continues to hope for a partnership of peace with the Palestinians, and one day to see an end to this violence. We first need to have a solid partner in this venture.
Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer is consul general of Israel to the Southeastern United States.