Protecting People in Israel's South

The last round of escalations between Israel and Gaza are unfortunately only the most recent in a long chain of rocket attacks on Israeli communities close to the Gaza border. The resulting uncertainty and constant state of high alert are taking their emotional toll on residents in the south. Nevertheless, many families are determined to stay and build their lives on their land in the Western Negev, and KKL-JNF is here to strengthen these communities both in the short term and for the long term future.

Operation Guardian of the Walls , May 2021

Once again, the residents of the southern region are being targeted by a heavy barrage of life-threatening rockets as well as incendiary devices launched over the Gaza border, causing havoc.

For its part, KKL-JNF extends its help to the people under attack on both fronts:

KKL-JNF is mobilizing to distance families from the confrontation line and bring them to its Field and Forest Education Centers in the northern region. KKL-JNF supports the construction of, and vital services provided by, Trauma and Resiliency Centers in the south, among its ongoing projects to develop and strengthen the region.

KKL-JNF's firefighters are battling fires in the northwestern Negev ignited by incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of May 2021, more than 50 fires have been set on fire, burning dozens of hectares of KKL-JNF forest land, including Be'eri, Kissufim, HaBesor, Hevel Eshkol, Nahal Assaf, and Tel Gama.
KKL-JNF western Negev fire lookout towers play an important role in identifying the location of every incendiary device that lands, helping firefighters contain and prevent the fires from spreading.

After the fires have been extinguished, the KKL-JNF Forestry Division determines the course of action for rehabilitating trees and forest infrastructure. We are in contact with the personnel in the field for details on the extent of the damage and the work needed for rehabilitating the forests.
KKL-JNF Firefighter battling fire made by an incendiary baloons. Photo: Yossi Ifergan, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Operation Protective Edge, July 2014

For the past fourteen years, residents of southern Israel and the Gaza periphery have been exposed to rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip. As a result of the attacks over the years, dozens of civilians have been killed and thousands of others have been injured. Residents of southern Israel live in a state of permanent trauma. In the Gaza periphery, where the local people have only fifteen seconds to take cover, children endure constant fear.

Statistics provided by the IDF Spokesman show that since the beginning of Protective Edge, more than 2,500 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel (as of July 27th, 2014).

In a special emergency fundraising campaign conducted in conjunction with KKL-JNF offices throughout the world, millions of shekels have already been donated for the purchase of 148 portable lifesaving bomb shelters, carrying out educational and recreational activities for residents confined to the shelters, and for respite activities in the form of day trips or weekend excursions. As more portable shelters are needed and more activities are required, the campaign will continue in the days to come.
Placing Bomb Shelters in Ashkelon and Sderot. Photo: Edi Israel, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

KKL-JNF for the South

The communities in Israel's south are within close firing range from the Gaza Strip. KKL-JNF supports their determination to live a normal, productive life despite the hardship.

KKL-JNF, together with its Friends worldwide, works every day to help people in Israel's south to study and work in safety. Now, during Operation Protective Edge, KKL-JNF's work has become more vital than ever before.

KKL-JNF Projects and their distance from Gaza

KKL-JNF, together with its Friends worldwide, works to support the residents of the Western Negev every day, be it in agriculture, education or security.
  • Security Roads and Plantings: KKL-JNF has built special security roads for defense and agriculture, to enable farmers to access their fields and to enable children to get to school safely. KKL-JNF is also planting a network of trees along Gaza's peripheral communities, in order to block Gaza snipers' line of sight in targeting Israeli civilians.
  • Water: In support of the residents' determination to build the western Negev, KKL-JNF has built a network of dams, reservoirs and water treatment facilities, in order to advance the region economically. KKL-JNF has also prepared land for agriculture and continues to prepare land for new communities.
Trees planted for security near the Gaza border. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
  • Research and Development: KKL-JNF sponsors R&D in the Negev, in order to keep Negev farmers at the forefront of an extremely competitive global produce market
  • Education: To enable children to study in pleasant green surroundings, KKL-JNF, with the support of its Friends, has developed green schoolyards and carries out a range of educational activities for school children.
  • Tourism and Recreation: KKL-JNF develops parks, recreational areas, bicycle trails and restores archaeological sites in the area, in order to attract more tourists to the region.
KKL-JNF security road on Gaza's periphery. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive
  • Bomb shelters: More recently, KKL-JNF has built portable bomb shelters in communities living near the Gaza border and the western Negev.
  • Respite for families: In especially tense times, KKL-JNF hosts families and students from the south at KKL-JNF Field and Forest Educational Centers in northern and central Israel.
Portable bomb shelter at a bus station in Sderot. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Security Roads

KKL-JNF builds roads in border areas, and other areas where security is a daily problem, allowing residents, tourists and soldiers to move around the area safely and in freedom. Thanks to these roads, military activity is enhanced, farmers can continue working their fields even in times of tension, children can reach schools without worrying about a stray missile, and the local population can move about with greater freedom. These roads usually become very popular with tourists visiting these areas in quieter times.

KKL-JNF repaired and improved agricultural security roads in the Western Negev following the Operation Cast Lead in 2008, in response to the distress of the communities in the region suffering ongoing artillery barrages and missiles. Work was carried out in a number of communities in the Eshkol, Hof Ashkelon, Sedot Negev and Sha'ar HaNegev regional councils. KKL-JNF has also prepared security roads in Northern communities close to the Lebanese border.

Agricultural and bypass security roads are joint projects with local government agencies and the ministries of Agriculture and Defense.

Life Saving Trees

The people living in communities bordering on Gaza are constanty exposed to Palestinian artillery and missile attacks, when driving along local roads, to and from their fields, and even within the boundaries of their own communities. In order to remedy the situation, KKL-JNF and the IDF have decided on a policy of planting trees that will serve a triple benefit to residents of the south: these rows of trees will not only block the vision of terrorist firing into Israel, but will also provide pleasant scenery and shade.

The planting program focuses on using fast-growing, water-saving species, adapted to the desert conditions in the area.

The first part of the project, planting to protect communities in the region, has already been completed, with the help of Friends of KKL-JNF worldwide, including Australia, Canada, South Africa and Italy. Gaza border communities protected by the trees include Kerem Shalom, Holit, En HaShelosha, Nirim, Nir Oz, Kissufim, Nahal Oz, Kfar Aza, Mefalsim and Sderot.

The second stage focuses on protecting the travel routes used by residents of the area. Development elements include land reclamation, drainage, plantings (a row of shrubs backed by a row of tall trees) and irrigation. The shrubs will screen the lower areas and the tree canopies, the higher ones.

KKL-JNF is also working with the Israel Honey Council to plant trees that serve as pasture to bees, enhancing honey production in the region.

Read more about life saving trees.

Water for Communities Under Fire

Despite being under fire from the Gaza Strip, communities in Israel's south are determined to live their lives and farm their lands. KKL-JNF, with the support of JNF Australia, is helping them do just that, by building a water treatment facility in the Shaar HaNegev region. The facility which purifies waste water from regional communities such as Kibbutz Kfar Aza, Kibbutz Erez, and Mefalsim, freeing up fresh water sources and providing more water for agriculture.

Portable Bomb Shelters

KKL-JNF work in the Western Negev continues despite the missiles and artillery fire in the area. Our dedicated forest workers tend forests and woodlands and go about their daily tasks almost as usual. But "almost" is the word – their work is regularly interrupted by sirens and "color red" alerts, warning of oncoming missiles. Workers in the field and field offices are exposed to danger and have no available shelters. KKL-JNF has put up three portable, reinforced concrete shelters in its forests and parks in the Western Negev.
The structures serve as offices for local foresters and as shelters when necessary.

In addition, Friends of KKL-JNF in many countries, in a heartwarming demonstration of solidarity, have so far donated 167 portable bomb shelters (and counting), which are being installed in communities throughout southern Israel.

This is in addition to the relief activities in shelters and excursions to quiet regions that friends of KKL-JNF worldwide support.

KKL-JNF portable bomb shelter in the forest. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The 167 new portable shelters will be distributed to the towns of southern Israel and the Gaza periphery in order to give the residents, who have been shut in their homes for over 3 long weeks, the possibility of moving more freely outdoors. The communities that have been given donated portable bomb shelters so far are Ofakim, Bnei Shimon, Gan Yavne, Sderot, Naveh, Bnei Netzarim, Sedot Negev, Eshkol, Hof Ashkelon, Merhavim, Shaar Hanegev and Netivot, and in the Bedouin sector - Beit Lakiya, Segev Shalom, Rahat and Hura.

Installing a bomb shelter in Naveh near the Gaza border. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

A Safe, Green Secondary School

The residents of Shaar HaNegev live under the daily reality of rocket attacks from Gaza. Despite this, they are determined to build a normal life for their children. The reinforced Shaar HaNegev Secondary School allows teenagers to study in a normal environment. JNF Australia is building an amphitheatre and archaeological garden, so that the students can learn in peaceful green surroundings, hold events like in any other school, and connect to the environment and their heritage.