Thousands of families from northern Israel left their homes this weekend, to wait for a cessation of rocket attacks. Monday, an entire community did it together. 180 residents of Margaliot, a small town adjacent to Kiryat Shmona, who originally planned to stay together in fortified shelters and not escape to central Israel, will spend the upcoming days in the resort town of Neveh Hadassah (near Netanya), following the town's offer to house residents from the north "in order to keep them away from the line of fire."
Margaliot Council Chairman Eitan Davidi told Ynet that residents – 180 in number – are driving south in order to be able to take a breather, but emphasized that none of the residents had complained about sitting in the shelters. According to Davidi, by doing this, the residents are strengthening the IDF's hand in its operations in the north. "We call upon more communities in central Israel to take the initiative of hosting residents from the north. Northern residents, come to the center of the country in order for the IDF to have more flexibility to operate," he said.
Yossi Sarid, a former Margaliot resident who, only a few days ago, arrived to offer support to town residents, told ynet: "I assume that the situation in Margaliot is the same as that of all communities on the border, where a significant number of residents have left, and we need to see this as an annual vacation. Perhaps it's unplanned, but if MKs are to be allowed to leave in a week for such a long recess and abandon their post in Parliament, then residents of the north are most certainly allowed to take a recess of their own."
Sarid added, "People need to behave as they see fit. These things happen anywhere people are threatened, including Tel Aviv in 1991. I see it as a completely normal thing."
Feeling at home
The village of Neveh Hadassah, next to Or Yehuda, is used to absorbing youth from foreign countries, but the current security situation creates a different picture. Abraham Rothstein, manager of the village, runs from house to house, making sure everyone is comfortable. According to Rothstein, upon hearing of the situation of the Margaliot children, Neveh Hadassah decided to take in the entire community, and also provide social outlets such as sports, swimming, and many other activities.
The guests from the north, uncomfortable with the situation and with the intense media presence, hurried to their rooms, while their children took over the local soccer field and swimming pool. "For the kids, it's a fun experience," says Margaliot resident Rachel Tamari. "They're very comfortable and happy with the situation. But I don't have peace of mind and have mixed feelings: you leave your home, your community…I left my husband behind…I wanted to stay, but my husband decided that it would be best for the children to be here in the village."
All ready to head south. Margaliot family (Photo: Doron Golan)
Margoliot residents were very touched by their warm reception and what it symbolized. "This is a wonderful act on their part," said Tamari. "To open your doors to someone requires a great deal of kindness and benevolence, and not everyone understands that."
Mother of five, Ilana Meshiach, told ynet that the decision to leave Margaliot and come to the resort resulted from an unbearable situation. "I've lived in Margolit for 25 years. We've been through a lot, and we've strengthened the IDF's hand, as we always will. But this time, it's a catastrophe. Hizbullah are getting closer. We've been in the shelter for five days…The children are very frightened. It's not something you can get used to." Ilana's husband is one of the few Margaliot residents to remain in the town, as the family earns its livelihood by farming and thus, cannot leave their lands untended.
The family had intended to celebrate the eldest daughter's wedding on Monday, which had been moved to Afula, because it was safer. The American groom-to-be had arrived in Israel despite the security situation. However, following a rocket attack in Afula, the family decided that enough was enough and cancelled the wedding ceremony. "She'll most likely get married in the US. I feel horrible," Ilana says.
Edna Palveri's three children having been waking up at night, terrified. She hopes that the move, which she agreed to immediately, will calm them. She explains: "We're brave and strong, ready to take blows and waiting for the end. We would have been willing to wait in shelters. In Neveh Hadassah, we'll be willing to wait longer."
Last Friday, several government ministers visited the north, convening a meeting with regional council leaders in the Carlton Hotel in Nahariya. Davidi didn't leave encouraged and, Monday, criticized the ministers for their words.
"The 'Carlton Summit' was embarrassing," he said. "It is impossible that the ministers left strengthened by this visit, as they claim. How did they leave thus and how is it related to them? The problem is ours, not theirs. They arrived in order to strengthen themselves politically," Davidi continued.
The crux of Davidi's problem is his opinion that an emergency situation should be declared, in order to reassure residents of the north that their livelihood and property will not be damaged. "I would like to tell Defense Minister Amir Peretz that he's been doing a good job up to now. But the operation does not end in the north. It begins in the north and ends in Lebanon. They should declare northern Israel an emergency area, and then the residents will be calm. This is what will help them," he declared.
Michelle Dor contributed to the writing of this article