Incessant spates of rocket fire, balloon bombs, and a high level of stress have become a painful routine for the thousands of families in the Israeli communities neighboring the Gaza Strip.
After another frantic week, some of the local mothers have written to the United Nations demanding international action in recognition of the suffering of their small children.
The mothers are weary of the situation and in their desire to protect the children from impossible conditions - where a balloon and a soccer ball no longer mean fun but do mean mortal danger - they feel frustrated and helpless.
Some have more than once found themselves feeling a sense of guilt over their impotence as their children confront difficult situations almost every day.
Each of the mothers sees the politics differently, but their demand is unanimous: They want to raise their children in sane surroundings.
“Life here revolves around constant stress,” says Zohar Sadan, a 39-year-old mother of three from Kibbutz Erez.
“The entire language we speak with our children has changed. The same questions keep coming up at home: ‘Was that an explosion?’ ‘What was that?’ One time it’s a balloon bomb, the next it’s a rocket. If there’s a siren in the evening, we already know that our army will retaliate at night and we certainly won’t be able to sleep. Our children are growing up in a world that’s unhinged.”
“I’m sure there is a direct link between our security situation and the coming elections,” she says. “At the moment nothing is happening, because everyone is busy with the elections and over here, we’re at bottom priority. But we’re determined to change the situation, to enable our children to grow up into a better and safer future.”
Yochi Zakai, a 35-year-old mother of five from Sderot who is in her ninth month of pregnancy, says: “We’re like sitting ducks. We’re always just coping. If the government has a plan to reach an arrangement [with Hamas], then they should reach it and they should say so."
"If they plan to go to war, then they should say so too and they should go to war. But they should do something and not leave us in this situation," she says.
"The last thing I want is war, but we’re in a nightmare period and we have to get out of it. I show my children all the resilience I can, but it doesn’t always work. I won't let us be ignored any longer.”
“Last Thursday, a rocket siren caught us while we were in the car,” Zakai says. “My husband and I, with five children in the car, couldn’t even get them out of their safety belts. There wasn’t a chance. We just lay down on top of the children inside the car and prayed.
"We try to stay as calm as possible, but the children absorb information all the time, mostly from their surroundings," she says. "The government of Israel, whoever is heading it, needs to decide to change the reality. Israel has lost its deterrence against Hamas, and it’s Hamas who’s running our lives from day to day. That’s absurd. Our children deserve to be safe in their homes.”
Lior Azran, 23, also from Sderot and is the mother of a two-year-old girl, concurs: “I’m not in the Bibi camp, or in any camp, I’m a young mother who wants some quiet to raise her children. There’s no one with the courage to bring back deterrence against Hamas.
"It’s possible to improve the situation, but we’re too concerned with what the world will say about us. A balloon bomb landed next to our building in Sderot and it was terribly frightening. I’m not willing to accept this. Israel needs to tell itself that we don’t answer to anyone, we deal with our own problems,” she says.
The mothers last week sent their letter to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with the help of Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center.
“In recent months, hundreds of bombs have been launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, attached to colorful helium balloons," says Darshan-Leitner.
"Some of the bombs sent toward the Israeli population near Gaza have come carrying colorful toys in order to tempt children to touch them. Tragic injuries could result. The silence of UNICEF regarding these terror attacks on Israeli children is unforgivable. If the reverse had occurred, and there were attacks by Israelis targeting Gazan children, the organization would find ways to take action against them."
She added: “Hamas does not even bother concealing its aim of harming innocent civilians. They even publicize it openly. Stop the years of racist silence about terror attacks against Jewish Israeli children. We call on UNICEF to use its political, economic, and social power and to take immediate action against the terror attacks of the Hamas terror organization against civilians. The time has come for the United Nations Children’s Fund to actually concern itself with children even when the children are Jewish and Israeli.”