In a Village of Roses, the War for Northern Israel Is Growing Too Close for Comfort

The thrum of drones and the thrump of mortar fire are constantly heard as a school is readied to become a makeshift hospital and the mayor predicts there will be 300 rockets a day.

Benny Avni/The New York Sun
The village of Kfar Vradim in northern Israel. Benny Avni/The New York Sun

KFAR VRADIM, Israel —This small red-roof village in the western Galilee is just on the edge of Hezbollah’s firing line. Most incoming mortars target nearby towns, but war is in the air here as well. If an American envoy can avert it from spreading, the devastation will, at best, be postponed. 

A constant unmistakeable hum of drones can be heard above. Israeli? Hezbollah? I don’t know, my host says. She points to the Lebanese border, which can be seen with the naked eye. Burned fields from recent fires smolder on the Israeli side. On Tuesday alarms in the entire area were triggered by an unidentified aerial device.  

Normally the serenity of this beautiful town is interrupted several times a day. An Anti-tank mortar is shot nearby, a cross-border missile zooms overhead, an explosive drone lands in the next town. Kfar Vradim has not been evacuated and its residents are at home, unlike neighbors who have spent the last eight months in hotel rooms further south, not knowing when, if ever, they can return home. 

Kfar Vradim
The village of Kfar Vradim in northern Israel. Alakfar.co.il via Wikimedia Commons CC3.0

Yet, the war here  is much too close for comfort. “The scariest moment so far was a couple days ago, when a Hezbollah missile was intercepted over my head while I was driving,” my host says. “I got out of the car quickly,” she says. “I told my daughter to get out too, but I wasn’t fast enough to lie over her, for protection from possible falling debris.”

Kfar Vradim, Village of Roses in Hebrew, was founded in 1984 by the hi-tech industrial entrepreneur Stef Werthheimer to accommodate rural housing for employees in his Iscar Metalworkings, a manufacturer of precision cutting tools. Many of its current 6,000 residents are professionals who want to live in a place they consider among the most beautiful spots on earth.  

It’s an inclusive, mostly secular community that also has two synagogues. Rainbow banners celebrating Pride month fly next to the Israeli blue and white standards. A wall displays pictures of the 120 hostages still held in Gaza, including Romi Gonen, a local 23-year-old woman who was abducted on October 7 from the Nova dance party.  

“What we have here is a European island inside Israel,” Mayor Eyal Shmueli says. Yet, he knows that the near future is far from rosy. “We will get 300 incoming rockers a day,” he predicts. When? “That decision is not ours,” he says. “Regrettably, that is up to them.” He points northward, toward Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon. 

Kfar Vradim
The village of Kfar Vradim in northern Israel, looking toward Lebanon. Benny Avni/The New York Sun

“We are preparing for several scenarios, including kidnapping situations, large fires — we are surrounded by flammable pine trees — and rescue operations from building rubble,” Captain Omri says. He has been drafted by the Israel Defense Force to man the local war situation room.

The captain monitors cameras mounted around the village. He lives nearby and is ready to protect the community at any time. The town residents may well be on their own here once war breaks. Part of the local high school building is now a makeshift hospital, ready to be manned by local doctors. Like volunteer firefighters and IDF veterans, they are on constant alert. 

This week’s Eid al-Adha, the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice, has provided a short respite from the war in the Galilee. Even when Israel killed a mid-level Hezbollah commander Tuesday, the terror organization refrained from an immediate retaliation. No one expects the calm to last. Last week’s hundreds of missiles during the Jewish festival of Shavuot is a reminder that no holiday is sacred.

Kfar vradim
The village of Kfar Vradim in northern Israel. Benny Avni/The New York Sun

America is attempting to diffuse the Lebanese-Israeli ticking bomb. Yet, “time is running out for a diplomatic solution,” the opposition leader Benny Gantz reportedly told a visiting White House envoy, Amos Hochstein, on Tuesday. 

Mr. Hochstein is aware that the IDF operation at Rafah, in Gaza, will end in a few weeks, and Israel will have to make a decision on what to do about the north. He is trying to avert an all-out Lebanon war that Washington fears will ignite the Mideast.   

Top government officials, Tsachi Hanegbi and Ron Dermer, are at Washington for meetings with Secretary Blinken and National Security adviser Jacob Sullivan. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is visiting the Pentagon, as Washington is pressuring Israel to refrain from responding militarily to an untenable situation on its northern border. 

The village of Kfar Vradim in northern Israel. Detail of image by Ulf Heinsohn via Wikimedia Commons CC4.0

“I believe there will eventually be a diplomatic agreement,” the founder of the north Israel-based Alma Research Center, Sarit Zehavi, says. It might even include an international force in Lebanon. Yet, unless it is willing to confront Hezbollah, such an agreement will at best calm the north for a short while. 

Here, at the village of roses, residents are bracing for what comes next. Regrettably, as Mayor Shmueli makes clear, Iran and its Hezbollah puppet, rather than Israel or America, control the level of the flames.

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Correction: The Jewish festival during which hundreds of missiles were fired on Israel is Shavuot. The name was misstated in the bulldog.


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