Last night was the Eve of Simchat Torah – the end of the Succot holidays, signifying the end of the cycle of reading the Torah scrolls for the year just finishing, and the start of a new cycle.
What Ifat, from the Facebook group “Life on the Border” shared last, was the continuation of another cycle: the seemingly never-ending cycle of rocket attacks on Israel, from the Gaza Strip, leading to IDF retaliations and more rocket attacks. Last night’s warning of an incoming rocket popped up on her phone shortly after 11 p.m.. The rocket alert, on the eve of a holiday, was for two kibbutzim (collective communities) about 15 kms north of where she and I both live. This time, the “bell tolled” for residents of Kibbutz Alumim and Kibbutz Nachal Oz.
Apparently, according to my sources, the rocket landed on the Gazan side of the border, completely missing its mark. But the resulting response it struck in the hearts of those who were in earshot of the alert, achieved its goal: terror. The people in those communities had to either leave their festivities (if they were still ongoing) and take cover, or wake up and run from their beds to their safe room.
If festivities were still ongoing, hopefully it was late enough to have only a few people left outside – possibly those from the community on clearing-up duty. Our communities do NOT have reinforced safe areas that are large enough to protect a crowd. Although all of our homes have saferooms (the size of a typical small bedroom), if there is an alert of incoming rocket fire when we have hundreds of people from our community, including guests, gathering for one of our celebrations, the scene would be absolutely terrifying: hundreds of men, women, children and wheelchair-bound elderly, with less than 10 seconds before the rocket falls and explodes, and no place to take cover. Hopefully, by the time the alarms went off last night, the crowds had dispersed to their homes.
If so, they were left in the following impossible situation: everyone (or the children, at least) are in bed, and the alarm goes off, leaving you less than 10 seconds to get to your saferoom. Many, no doubt, had to use the precious few seconds to rush into their sleeping children’s bedrooms and grab them on the way to the saferoom. And then. .. who do you grab first? The baby in the crib? The toddler who also would need help, disoriented and roused from sleep into an atmosphere of urgency and the sound of the shrieking beeper? And what about the infirm or wheelchair-bound? Most people don’t even think of the predicaments those who are dependent upon caregivers, and who- unlike small children and babies -cannot be swooped up into someone’s arms. These border residents are rooted to their cumbersome wheelchairs, unable to sprint to safety, endangering both themselves and their spouses/children/parents/caregivers trying to move them to safety (if they even have anyone around at that time of night).
This is likely what happened in Nachal Oz – the still grieving community where all parents knew the four-year-old Daniel Tregerman, who was killed last year by the explosion of a Hamas-projectile that invaded their house during Operation Protective Edge, violently and suddenly extinguishing his young life, while playing in his living room – supposedly the safest happy-place for any child. The consummate, worst-case scenario nightmare of any parent. Can you imagine how all the parents in Nachal Oz felt last night, when the alarms sounded?
This is the situation in which we live, until the leaders of both sides find a way to take the brave steps necessary to get back to the negotiating table. To quote Gershon Baskin, in a post from yesterday: “To both sides I say – it can all collapse and degenerate into another round of horrendous violence. It is so easy for it to get out of control.” Relating to the violent escalation in the West Bank and Jerusalem regions, he goes on to write: “This violence can end now, but it can also get out of control. ….. It must end now and then the parties have to figure out how to get back to serious genuine negotiations for peace and security ……”
As the border continues to simmer, and the violence in the Jerusalem region is reaching the boiling point, we really have no time to waste.
I blog about what it is like to live on the border- not what you read in the newspapers- but what people here feel. There are others on the border, who share their experiences, as well, in the Facebook group “Life on the border with Gaza – things people may not know (but should)“, where people write, in English, about what it is like living on the border, and people who are interested in their depictions, can go and read, express empathy and support. ONLY border-related, Western Negev related posts are allowed in, and most times, when the border is quiet, the group is relatively dormant. You are invited to join us there.