End of February 2020. We are heading south, to one of the shows of the Darom Adom ‘Red South’ Festival. The show will take place in the Eshkol Regional Council’s show hall. One of the most targeted areas in the State of Israel, less than 5 kilometers from the Gaza border.
The Red South Festival takes place every year, in the period between mid-January and the end of February. During this period there are many performances in the Israeli kibbutzim around Gaza. Originally, the festival’s name was assigned to it because of the spectacular carpets of red anemones spread in this area in this season. Continuous episodes of red alerts add a realistic and painful meaning to this name.
The trip from the Southern Lowland Region, also randomly targeted by rockets, to the Eshkol Regional Council, takes a little less than an hour , and runs along most of the border with Gaza. As you get closer to the ambiguously “red” areas, the landscape changes. Except for the spectacular blossom of anemones, also of almond trees, it is hard not to notice the small and somewhat strange constructions along the roads. These constructions are rectangularly designed, they have a single entrance, and no windows; they are called Miguniot ‘mobile shelters.’ The Miguniot are stationed next to every bus stop. The Migunit is made of concrete, and can accommodate a small number of people. It was designed to provide a solution during emergency situations to people that are outside, in motion, and are subjected to a red alert – a daily routine in the area. In the area where the Miguniot are placed, the time of entry into the shelters once a red alert is heard – is 15 seconds.
There is something very contrastive about the appearance of concrete-made Miguniot versus the red background of the spectacular blossom. Beyond the fact that the inhabitants of the region live under a constant threat of rockets and terror tunnels, lately also mined balloons, the children grow into an impossible reality, which has impacted them, and will certainly impact their future as well. But beyond this striking contrast – what is particularly noteworthy is that the concrete in the small Miguniot is not exposed: all of them, with no exception, are decorated with colorful, beautiful paintings that convey joy and optimism: even the harsh reality gets colors of hope here.
It was quiet in the Southern part of Israel during our trip. Not a very common routine. Being there, in real time, it is hard to believe that this silence, with the pastoral landscape, is violated every day by those who refuse to accept our existence as Jews in the State of Israel, and who do not want us there; those who try, by every means, to exhaust us by firing rockets from Gaza, by terrorists infiltrating through terror tunnels into Israeli settlements, or by mined balloons, also sent from Gaza. Those balloons, that in every sane place symbolize joy, have gained a completely different meaning here.
The next day, more than forty rockets were fired at the area where we had traveled. Over forty rockets within a few hours. Residents were again asked, repeatedly, to run to their shelters within 15 seconds. And probably again – the beautifully colored Miguniot saved some of them from physical injuries. Not from mental ones, though.
The show, by the way, was supreme. Ilay Botner and his band of musicians, surely knew how to bring some joy to people, whose daily routine is not so joyful. And they did it perfectly.