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NATURE NOTES - Summer 2006

The Other Victims

Every time the newscaster announces that a rocket has landed in an open area and hasn't wounded anyone, Israelis breathe a sigh of relief. What most people don't realize, however, is that doesn't mean that the rocket hasn't caused any harm. The thousands of rockets that the Hizbullah has fired at Israel in recent weeks have caused hundreds of forest fires, burning down almost half a million trees covering a total of 4,000 dunams (approximately 1,000 acres), according to the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund.

Since the conflict with the Hizbullah escalated, KKL-JNF rangers, volunteers, the fire department, and other emergency services have been working round the clock at great personal risk to extinguish dozens of fires every day. Were it not for their efforts, the Hizbullah rockets would have taken an even greater toll on the Israeli landscape.

Thus far, the Hizbullah has caused severe damage to the Biriya Forest, the second-largest forest in Israel, which is located near Safed. Both natural and manmade forests all over northern Israel, from Meron and the Naftali Hills to the forests at Hanita, Bara'am, and Beit Keshet, have suffered as well.

The problem is not limited to northern Israel. The kassem missiles that Hamas has been firing into Israel from the Gaza Strip have caused fires which destroyed tens of thousands of trees that already were struggling to survive in the Negev's harsh desert environment.

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