Israel has been under unique assault from Hamas, the ruling terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, for more than two months. The current turmoil is part of the preplanned and carefully orchestrated the "March of Return" protests at the Gaza-Israeli border.
In addition to the mass protests by men, women and children, bussed to over a dozen Palestinian protest points along the border, many set tires on fire and rolled them toward the security fencing at the physical border. Hamas reportedly would pay if a protester was injured and would pay the family even more if that member was killed, for the sake of jihad.
Under the cover of the thick, black smoke generated from the burning tires, there have been repeated efforts to cut the wire of the security fencing and broach the border into Israel. Once there, the terrorists would hope to kill or kidnap as many Israelis as possible.
In addition to the rocks and bottles thrown or shot by large slingshots or crude catapult-like constructions, many of the protestors learned to fly large kites, with incendiary devices attached, over the border into Israel, hoping to burn crops or damage the homes and schools of the peaceful residents of the nearby Israeli communities.
Some "killer-kites" carried slow-burning incendiaries, like burning charcoal. Similarly, helium-filled balloons are believed to be used to drip fire accelerator in the flammable areas.
As of last weekend, these arsonist tactics by Hamas terrorists have started devasting fires in southern Israel's wheat fields and in the Carmia Nature Preserve. Authorities estimate the wild-fires there destroyed some 2,000 to 3,000 dunams (500 to 740 acres) of fields, or about one-third of the Carmia reserve, causing massive damage to both the flora and the fauna in the reserve.
Although drones operated by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) had managed to bring down more than 500 kites, firefighters were also working to gain control of blazes near various kibbutzim (collective farms), which border the central and northern Gaza Strip. The fires have caused tens of millions of shekels of damage and Israeli farmers are fearful they won't be compensated for the terrorist-caused devastation.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Mediterranean seacoast around Gaza has seen arson used in conflicts between the two main people groups living there.
Around 1,000 B.C., conflict persisted between the mainly agrarian tribes of Israel and the seafaring people known as Philistines, who lived in and around their five principle city-states, along with the coast northwest of Egypt, from Gaza to Ashkelon.
These Philistines were a different people group than the Palestinians, who live in the area today. The former are descended from mariner immigrants from along the Aegean Sea to the north. The latter are of Arab or Egyptian descent and only recently claimed the ancient name, Palestine, used by the Romans and British for that administrative district.
During the time of these ancient Philistines, the Bible says (in Judges 12-16) that "the Spirit of the Lord" empowered one of their charismatic, young leaders, named Sampson, to perform extraordinary deeds of strength and heroism (Ch. 14-15).
His single-handed victories over the Philistines served to disrupt their oppressive domination over Israel, although he did not liberate his people entirely from Philistinian aggression.
One occasion of personal retribution found Sampson catching 300 foxes and tying their tails together and placing torches between each pair of tails. According to the account in Judges 15, Sampson set the torches on fire and let the foxes loose in the crop fields of the Philistines. This arsonist act burned up the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves (v.5).
Such violent aggression is not going to bring peace among enemies. It may establish winners and losers—for a time. True peace is elusive.
The name of the city of Jerusalem means "City of Peace." In Psalm 122:6, King David called for the inhabitants of that city...that land...to live up to its name.
The word for peace in Hebrew is "shalom," which means more than just the absence of strife. It can also mean welfare, health, prosperity, and happiness.
Let's pray that hearts are changed, violence is overcome, and true peace comes to the Holy Land. That will only happen when the Prince of Peace returns!
Ordained to the ministry in 1969, Gary Curtis is a graduate of LIFE Bible College at Los Angeles (soon to become Life Pacific University at San Dimas, California). He has taken graduate courses at Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois. and Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California. Gary served as part of the pastoral staff of The Church on The Way, the First Foursquare Church of Van Nuys, California, for 27 years (1988-2015), the last 13 years as the vice president of Life on The Way Communications Inc., the church's not-for-profit media outreach. Now retired, Gary and his wife have been married for 50 years and live in Southern California. They have two married daughters and five grandchildren.
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