A few months ago, my family and I participated in our first Blossom Kite Festival in Washington, D.C. Although it was not a windy day, we managed to get our kites into the sky. I am 41 years old, but once I hold a kite, I immediately feel like my son Oz, a happy, carefree 10 year old.
That’s why it’s especially challenging to imagine that kites can be used to terrorize. But lately, the daily texts from my municipality back home in Israel have looked like this:
Terror Kites Today…
Fire has consumed another 50 acres of our fields…
Thank you to all the volunteers who are helping to control the fires…
I’ve been getting texts like this every single day for the last several weeks. Some days, the number of terror kites is higher, and some days it’s only one or two — but there is never a total reprieve from the firebombs attached to kites or balloons that are launched into Israel from Gaza.
It’s truly heartbreaking to see the photos being sent to me: the smoking black landscape that now covers all the places I used to go with my family for hiking, biking, and camping. In the arid south of the country, it was already hard for plants and crops to survive the boiling summer and cold winter. Now, it’s all black. It’s all smoke.
There is a very intimate relationship between a person and his kite. You let go of the kite, but still hold on to the string. You release string gradually as the kite catches the wind and rises to the sky. Sometimes, you’re not sure if the kite is driving you, or if you are driving the kite. One is holding the ground, the other holding the sky. The string that connects the person to his kite is extremely important. If you disconnect the string, you’ve lost the purpose of the kite altogether.
The people living in the south of Israel have been holding those strings for many years. They are holding their ground while keeping their heads in the sky. They refuse to give up and they remain optimistic, building their communities and continuing to pursue their dreams.
On the other side of the fence, I fear people are letting go: They are losing their kite, the string, their hold between their dreams and their reality, and the biggest loss of all — hope.
There is a phrase in Hebrew: Ein hasa’ar mashmid et hazera hatamun amok b’adama, which means, “The storm or the fire will not destroy the seeds if they are planted deep in the ground.” The people living in the south of Israel have planted their seeds deep within the earth. I trust that the burnt soil will soon be replaced by new growth.
This is a tragic tale happening now. For me, taking the innocent symbol of a kite and transforming it into a war machine is heartbreaking. I’m still holding onto the string that connects me with my kite, my dream, and my family’s wish for peace.
By Tzachi Levy
Tzachi Levy is in his first year as The Jewish Agency senior shaliach (Israeli emissary) to The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Most recently, he served as director for The Jewish Agency’s Shinshinim Shlichut Program.