“After being woken up by numerous distant explosions, and a hyperventilating dog trying to crawl under the covers, I decided it would be easier for me to fall back asleep in the safe room. At least that way, if anything is shot at us here, I won’t have to get up and run. It’s been an hour. Still can’t fall asleep. I’m going to be tired behind the wheel tomorrow, which concerns me as much as the kassams do. I cannot call up work and say I’m too tired to drive in. Life – and work – goes on here in the Western Negev.”
This is what Adelle Raemer, who lives on Kibbutz Nirim, posted on Monday morning on the Facebook group “Life on the border With Gaza – Things People may not know (but should),” which she had created in August 2011 in frustration at the lack of awareness, in central Israel and around the world, of the situation Israel’s southern residents are forced to endure.
“We are not looking for any escalation on our side,” declared IDF foreign press spokesperson Lt.-Col. Avital Leibovich during a media teleconference last Wednesday in the late afternoon, organized by The Israel Project. The discussion was held in the midst of what she termed a “temporary escalation” of the conflict in Israel’s south near the Gazan border.
Five days later, the rockets are still flying.
Gaza has become a “terror hub” with a variety of violent organizations that share the common goal of “specifically” targeting Israeli civilians, she said. “But as our name is Israel Defence Forces, we will continue to defend our civilians.”
Leibovich stressed that since the beginning of 2012 alone, more than 550 rockets were launched into Israel, which the “international press has failed to mention.” (That number has increased since the teleconference.)
In the year 2000, the range of an average rocket was roughly four to five kilometres, with about 30,000 Israelis within range; today, with improved technology, the range is about 45 kilometres targeting a million innocent civilians, she explained.
On Sunday, the Israeli cabinet unanimously approved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal on full protection for all communities in close proximity to the Gaza Strip at a cost of NIS 270 million. It also authorized the Israeli leader to decide within 30 days on the sources of financing.
Yael Talker is a resident of Kibbutz Re’im, where there are no safe rooms. When the siren goes off, “we just wait and pray…. Today’s cabinet meeting approved protection, but we still don’t know where the money will come from. We’ve heard promises so many times….
“My daughter is almost 12 and she’s afraid of everything. She was upset when school was closed because it’s safer there.”
Talker is attending school in Rehovot, in central Israel, where “people don’t understand. In Tel Aviv, it’s just news.”
Indeed, at a two-hour-long presentation in Beit Shemesh Sunday evening by Yair Lapid, leader of the new Yesh Atid party, on his platform, neither he nor anyone in the full hall mentioned the situation in the south.
“We have to either go in there [Gaza] and bomb the hell out of them, which I don’t think will solve anything, or we have to sit down with them at the table,” Raemer told the Jewish Tribune. “We’re not doing either. I prefer the latter.”
“Everybody living here is somewhat post-traumatic stress. When I’m in Tel Aviv and I hear a microphone crackling, I think we have to take cover.”
Janet Swierzenski of Kibbutz Nir-Yitzhak, which last year acquired safe rooms, said, “I was in Tel Aviv on Thursday with my husband and some other people from the kibbutz…. When someone began speaking on a megaphone at a supermarket across the street, we were frozen…. We say we’re fine and we go on with our lives, but something is very wrong. This is not a normal life.
“The people who live here don’t have a conflict with the people of Gaza,” she stated. “It’s a problem with their leaders. International politicians have to help, because we are in this conflict for too many years. The problem is that when any terrorist plans to send a rocket to Israel and the IDF responds, we have a ping-pong match. Perhaps the UN should get involved…. When I came to the kibbutz in 1997 from Uruguay, we had 12 workers from the Palestinian side coming daily, very nice people…. It was perfect. We loved them. We’re hoping for better times. We’re hoping to go to the beach in Gaza.”
According to Swierzenski, leaving Gaza and uprooting the thriving Gush Katif communities there was “not a mistake. I think Israel made a good step in the peace plan, but the other side didn’t appreciate it. The problem is the leaders, not the people.”
Southern resident Susie Shaul, a former Gush Katif resident, said:
“I am not sure what the best way is to handle the situation. It’s about 15 years too late. If the government had reacted strongly to the first mortar on a civilian settlement, the terrorist groups might have been deterred from escalating. There is no excuse for accepting the situation as is….
“Since Israel has left the Gaza Strip, the situation has gotten much worse.”
Esther Revivo, a former Canadian who lives near the city of Netivot, told the Tribune, “Over a million southern residents are being held hostage by Hamas…. Our government has failed miserably…. Instead of going into Gaza house by house and mosque by mosque to weed out the terrorists, they have chosen to use band-aids – Iron Dome, fortified schools and homes. This is not the answer.
“My grandchildren’s school has been on the receiving end of missiles. Although they learn in fortified classrooms, they cannot play outside at recess…. They are afraid to go to the park. Is this a life for a child?”
Rockets fired at Israel from within residential area in Gaza