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‘Anyone who works in agriculture is like a soldier.’

The vineyards of Kibbutz Meirav stretch out along the verdant slopes of Mount Gilboa. In this little corner of Israel, the altitude, topography, and Mediterranean climate make for high-quality grapes.

But the area is becoming a new frontline for Palestinian terror groups in the nearby Samaria.

The kibbutz lies less than 500 meters from the Green Line separating Israel from the Palestinian Authority and the village of Jalbun. From the road near Meirav’s entrance, one can see Jalbun’s houses and even overlook Jenin in the distance.

“The last few months have seen many attempts to breach our security. The terrorists are becoming more professional and less afraid.” Ran Ben Nun, chairman of the board of the kibbutz and one of Meirav’s founders, told The Press Service of Israel.

Farmers and volunteers working in the vineyards of the kibbutz are situated less than 100 meters from the border.

Due to the proximity, they hear the Muslim calls to prayer from a nearby minaret more clearly than some of Jalbun’s residents. The vineyard workers are also the first to hear when gunshots are fired at Meirav.

“Ever since the reality of gunfire shots materialized here, we are anxious about entering this area, but we know that we can’t lose this territory,” said Moshe Hernik, the agriculture supervisor of the vineyards. “So, we continue to do all the work, but with eyes wide open, as we don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

But he acknowledges it’s a vulnerable situation.

“The workers are already anxious about the situation, but if, God forbid, someone gets shot while we are there, I say that the working conditions will change. The workers will be more afraid to go in and won’t take any risks. I hope that we will not reach the situation that the northern Israel farmers are facing now. It will kill the agriculture here,” Hernik explained to TPS-IL.

“Agriculture is our existence; it is what we believe in. Today agriculture in Israel is our security, both locally and generally. It’s a mission. Basically, anyone who works in agriculture is like a soldier. It’s fighting for our existence,” he insisted.

The Ambush

It wasn’t always like this. The religious kibbutz was founded in 1987.

Meirav grew from its original 11 families to a thriving community of 150 families.

In addition to the vineyards, the kibbutz raises wheat, nuts, mangoes, avocados and dates. Meirav also boasts a robust milk production line.

During the kibbutz’s early years, the relationship between Meirav and the adjacent Palestinians was very open.

“We had good relations with the people of Jalbun. We built a candle factory in their village, a branch of our own, which has since closed. They worked for us. During a time when they had no electricity and water, they received electricity and water from us,” Ben Nun recalled.

The coexistence came to an abrupt end in August 2001. Palestinian terrorists ambushed an Israeli car near the kibbutz entrance, killing 16-year-old Aliza Malka and injuring three other girls.

Reports said the terrorists fired from behind trees planted by the Jewish National Fund.

Two years later, as the Second Intifada raged, the security fence was built.

“For 20 years, it was quiet and disconnected,” Ben Nun said.

‘I See the Shooters From My House’

The quiet came to an end in April 2023, around Passover when terrorists began firing on the kibbutz from the houses of Jalbun.

Since then, residents have been living with stricter security measures and a simmering frustration with the army.

“After one family’s house was hit, they realized that a closed window wouldn’t stop the bullets. They built makeshift barriers out of wooden planks filled with gravel, hoping for at least some protection,” Ben Nun said. “I don’t blame this family, but as a community in Israel witnessing such measures, it’s clear that the IDF has a lot of work to do protecting it. It has to do better.”

Realizing the shooting wouldn’t stop, some residents crossed the fence to set up a protest camp in Jalbun, but the army quickly evacuated them. Days before October 7, residents of Meirav organized a protest demanding stronger measures against the terror cells of northern Samaria.

“I see the shooters from my house, literally every evening because of my proximity to the fence. They get out of the car, shoot, and run away,” Hagai Ziv, a resident of Kibbutz Meirav told TPS-IL during that protest march.

Paradoxically, the situation calmed down after the war began, but the lull was all too brief. The shooting has resumed with greater intensity — and accuracy. On Passover evening, a bullet penetrated the window of a frontline home, narrowly missing a child inside.

“Though the IDF has increased the presence in the area, the terror mobilization on the other side is increasing as well. In the last few months many times, during the IDF searches there, the terrorists threw explosives which they learned to make on their own,” Ben Nun said. “Our main fear is that one day, there might be less army presence, and then it could take just 10 minutes for attackers to breach our defenses and cause significant harm.”

But Ben Nun is also adamant that Kibbutz Meirav will prevail through the escalating terror.
“We are a resilient community that looks out for each other,” he insisted. “Even in the face of security threats, we remain committed to our mission of agricultural and social development. We will never leave this place, no matter what.”

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