Inside View Mar/Apr 2019

It was troubling to watch the video of Rafi’s Jeep going up in flames, the victim of an incendiary balloon launched in Gaza and carried by the wind into Israel. Within seconds, the entire Jeep was aflame.

Rabbi Shmuel Bowman, executive director of Operation Lifeshield, introduced me to Rafi three years ago; and Rafi has been a friend ever since. Thanks to generous donations to our Israel Relief Fund, we’ve worked with Shmuel to place 24 missile shelters in the region around Gaza to protect Israelis from missile attacks.

Rafi is director of security for the S’dot Negev region that encompasses 16 Jewish communities along the Gaza border. I once spent an afternoon in Rafi’s Jeep, driving through farm fields lush with crops, as he took me along the Gaza fence and explained the security threats.

It was easy to see the ever-present danger under which the residents of S’dot Negev live, day and night. We passed the exits of underground Hamas terrorist tunnels that originate in Gaza. Rafi had to keep an eye out for sniper fire. Nearby we visited an Iron Dome battery in the middle of a field—poised at all times to intercept missiles.

That afternoon, as he showed me the bountiful crops growing on the Israeli side of the border, Rafi told me that if I didn’t remember anything else from our time together, I must remember one thing: “The soil on this side of the fence and the soil on the other side of the fence are the same, but on this side we use it for good, and on the other side they use it for evil.”

I have never forgotten those words, and I couldn’t help but recall them as I watched Rafi’s Jeep going up in flames. Thankfully, he survived the attack unharmed; but the incident was yet one more witness to the evil Israel’s enemies perpetrate. Those who hate the Jewish people desire nothing more than to wipe them off the map, “that the name of Israel may be remembered no more” (Ps. 83:4).

The incendiary balloons and kites that Hamas has been launching into Israel since the middle of 2018 contain hot coals and are carried randomly by the wind until they land and set the surrounding area on fire. Thousands of acres of crops and forests, as well as several buildings, have been burned, putting Israelis at risk and destroying vital resources. Add one Jeep to that number.

Because the fires are often in fields or forests with no water supply and located a distance from any community, combating them requires firefighting water-tank trailers. The trailers have a great advantage over traditional fire trucks, which are slow and easily get bogged down in the looser soil of open spaces. The trailers can be brought to the fire site much more quickly.

Response time to a fire is critical. In the dry climate of southern Israel, where many of the plants have a high content of natural oil, fires become intense blazes within seconds. If firefighters don’t reach a fire within 15 minutes, it quickly expands exponentially and becomes impossible to extinguish. Left to burn itself out, it destroys entire fields.

So The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry began helping by sending funds from our Israel Relief Fund to Operation Life-shield to acquire firefighting tank trailers. They cost $15,500 each and are the most effective tool to fight the fires. Each unit includes a large water-tank trailer, a motor to pump the water, and a hose. They are easily attached to pickup trucks, SUVs, or Jeeps like Rafi’s.

If you would like to help purchase a firefighting water-tank trailer, you may give to the Israel Relief Fund on our website at www.foi.org, or by calling our office at 800-257-7843 in the United States. Checks can be mailed to The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, PO Box 908, Bellmawr, NJ 08099.

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