South's residents want their life back
As holiday of Hanukkah approaches, it appears Gaza vicinity communities will be in need of many miracles this year as well. Frustrated inhabitants call on government to speed up fortification against rockets. 'Once I thought it was a crime to raise children in a war zone like Gush Katif; now I'm doing the exact same thing,' says Kibbutz Kfar Aza resident
Residents of the southern town of Sderot and the Gaza vicinity communities are hoping for a holiday of miracles, but the gloomy reality in the area is prompting some of them to get up and leave, in order to celebrate of Hanukkah far away from the rockets and mortar shells fired by terror organizations in the Gaza Strip.
Sderot resident Yossi Timsit told Ynet on Saturday night that his family had already left the city for Beersheba, where they will celebrate Hanukkah. Timsit, whose house was destroyed by a Qassam rocket, remained in Sderot.
"I would go with them, but we haven't finished building the house and I stayed to keep an eye on it," he says painfully.
Timsit's wife was severely injured by a Qassam rocket. "Last week I still went with my wife to her treatment. Her body is filled with shrapnel," he says. "Every alert takes us back to what happened. It always lives inside of you, it never ends. Everything falls apart for you and there's no one to talk to."
Chava Gad waited in horror all night for the rocket fire to resume. "In the morning we got up, packed everything, took the 10-year-old boy and left for Kfar Saba," she says.
According to Gad, although she is now far from home, her heart is in Sderot.
"In the evening we came back because there was no choice. On the way we began receiving reports on the rockets fired at Sderot. You return with a heavy burden. I have tranquilizers in the bag attached to me. I use them when I enter Sderot."
'We didn't take alert system seriously'
Kibbutz Kfar Aza will hold a ceremony Sunday to mark the birthday of Jimmy Kdoshim, who was killed by a mortar shell in May. Many in the kibbutz wonder what the future holds, without a lull. A number of residents met Saturday evening to discuss the situation.
"Kfar Aza was always a kibbutz with a strong and leading community," said Ayelet Epstein.
"In the past eight years we have been treating the rocket threat as a threat which is irrelevant to us," she added. "We didn't take the Color Red alert system seriously, no one left, we absorbed more families and there was a shortage of housing units. But in May's mortar attack a basic part of our sense of security was damaged."
Epstein said there were those who left for a day, others who were away for a week or a month, and some who never returned.
Damage caused by mortar shell in kibbutz (Photo: Amir Cohen)
Despite the damage caused to the communal strength, the kibbutz residents still take comfort in each other. "We strengthen each other," said Ophir Libstein.
Ayelet Epstein added, "All we want is our life back. This is our home; we won't go live anywhere else."
In a bid to divert the talks about leaving, Ophir Libstein said that "the fortification issue is one of the moist important things."
According to Libstein, "The fortification of the Gaza vicinity communities must be turned into a national project, so that the fortification can be completed within half a year. This is a strategic project which must be implemented immediately. The moment it's done, the situation will be improved. We'll continue to fight for our home."
'I want my kids alive'
The group was joined by Shirley Okev, whose house was hit by a mortar shell last May and whose workplace was damaged recently.
"I feel frustrated, helpless. I love this place, I want to stay here and raise my children in this magical place. Nonetheless, I feel I don’t have the energy to do so. We are living in a daily state of fear.
"On the one hand we want to educate our children to be patriots and love the country, but on the other hand we feel irresponsible raiding a child into this fear. In the past, when I saw the Gush Katif mothers, I felt it was a crime to raise children in a war zone. Today I'm doing the exact same thing."
In Kfar Aza there have been families who chose in the past to leave the kibbutz, at least at night. For three weeks after May's attack, Okev and several other families left for Kibbutz Kfar Menachem.
"We came to work in the morning, and at night we returned somewhere else to sleep quietly," she recounted. Asked what she would do in case of an escalation, she has no response.
One of the kibbutz members who left recently said, "All kinds of events have been canceled and the Hanukkah march will likely not take place.
"We don’t talk about it, we don’t show it and we don’t complain out loud, because that's what we educated to do. We are supposed to be the salt of the earth. But I don’t want to be the salt of the earth, I don’t want my children to be remembered this way. I want them alive."
Shmulik Hadad contributed to this report