My Life on the Move: Evacuation Diary Operation Shield and Arrow: Homecoming
Five days ago, I drove away from my home, away from my anchor, but more importantly: away from the mortars and rockets. It’s the first time I have left my community under fire since 2012. I did so unhappily, but I needed to be with my family, to help my daughter with her littles through whatever lay ahead. This experience has now given me a clearer window into what it feels like to participate in community evacuation
Fight or Flight
When your life is in danger, you go into “fight or flight” mode. My default mode, that of choosing to remain on Nirim, is “fight”. It’s not physical fighting, I no longer have my gun, or my license. I fight in a different way: through the media, giving interviews, blogging, vlogging, Tiktoking and Instagraming our boots-on-the-ground realities. Bearing witness to life in 0-10 seconds to get to a safe place from the moment you hear the Red Alert incoming rocket alarm, until you hear the explosion.
Because life for the innocent civilians on the other side of the border, is hell. Especially during a military escalation. But like I often say: “It ain’t no picnic here, either”. They have no government building them saferooms or bomb shelters, and this despite the fact that their leaders have received plenty of money and building supplies by countries around the world which could have been used for that purpose. Their corrupt leaders deferred investing money given for reconstruction, in favor of building underground tunnels and bunkers to protect their weapons and themselves. They have no army protecting them. Instead of protecting Gazans, their different terror groups randomly target innocent civilians in Israel, shooting rockets from within civilian areas, thus committing a double war crime, both against our citizens as well as their own.
On our side, life is also completely disrupted. Public transportation, schools, even road within our kibbutz as well as access roads into our community are closed. A military war zone. You take your life in your hands just to go to the community store, with limited opening hours due to the escalation, to get a pint of milk.
I now have experienced the “other” method of self-protection: flight mode, taken by those who evacuate during military operations. Evacuating is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it is encouraged and there is a specific government-funded program, which kicked in on the very first day, setting up communities and hotels to where people in border-lying communities could go. When “home” becomes a landing pad for terror rockets, children cannot walk around safely. The elderly or infirm with physical or psychological limitations should not have to deal with added stress. Anyone who is not fulfilling a purpose (feeding and milking the cows, tending to the daily economics of running a community, providing basic needs and services for those who remain behind) has no business endangering themselves by staying in what has become a war zone. In fact, people who are not totally independent physically or emotionally, endanger others by staying behind. No one should be expected to risk their own life to bring food or basic supplies under fire, to someone who cannot leave their house due to rocket fire.
Having said that, I can now personally bear witness to this fact, as well: Evacuating is just as nerve wracking as staying put. In fact, I can say now that for me, it was worse. It isn’t as dangerous, of course, but it is very challenging. Evacuation with your community has been statistically proven to be beneficial psychologically, and underpins resilience, when circumstances force you to leave your home. Being together with people you know; young kids with their friends from kindergarten and school, parents with their friends and peers, creates a net of help and support.
Looking at the Whatsapp group created for those who left together , you can see the kind of messages that would often pop in:
“Who has an aspirin?”
“I do – come to room 309”
“Does anyone have baby food?”
“What type do you need? I’m at the supermarket now.”
“Everyone please come to Hermon Hall at 9:30 for an update”
And so on…..
A community away from home.
And yet, it was no picnic. I told an acquaintance that we had been evacuated to Nahariya. Her response was: “Lovely – so you had lots of beach time!”
Maybe it wasn’t typical for people of my age without young children, but I was fully occupied giving interviews, writing blogposts (they may look easy but actually require hours to write), making Tiktoks (also extremely time consuming).
And when I wasn’t doing any of that, I was running after a toddler who has just learnt to walk – actually she skipped the walking part and went straight to “run”- and gets into everything!
And I haven’t even mentioned the tension of not knowing where you would sleep the following night, who you will be assigned to room with, what the state of that room will be, and certainly no one can know when you will be able to return home. This is all trivial next to the constant state of concern for your people and community under fire. Of course, there were also the hours of driving from refuge to refuge and then back home.
Yesterday’s drive from Kibbutz Evron, where we finally ended up, was long and arduous. I did it mostly in one go – just made a pit stop for liquid-out, liquid-in. It took about 4 hours. The drive felt very different from driving around during the escalation. Listening to the radio was eery. Every so often there would be a break in the radio program and you knew that there was rocket fire someplace, with the announcer stating the name of the city or town or community under fire, warning people in that range to get to a safe place. Then the regular programming would resume.
“The Day After”
Our kibbutz has a committee called “The Day After”. The committee plans activities and get-togethers in order to ease people back into life at home, and to help those who remained on Nirim during the escalation, to decompress back into normal routines. Late yesterday afternoon, the committee members set up tables, got coffee, cakes and pizza for people arriving home to empty fridges. The scene was full of people hugging, children playing again on the swings in front of our member’s lounge, and once again: scenes of the community emerging back to life. Although we were warned not to let the children run around on the lawns barefooted for fear of stepping on shrapnel from the Iron Dome and the rockets they shot down, things seemed pretty much back to normal, almost as if the past 5 days hadn’t happened. It’s not easy building resilience, learning to regain trust, feeling safe being home, as should be the case.
All was good till 18:33, when people started getting phone alerts of renewed rocket fire towards Ashkelon.
Tables were quickly folded up, and put away. Pizzas were packed up and taken home. Parents had to reassure their children that everything would be ok. Only- they couldn’t.
I’m sure many kids did not go to school today. My granddaughter, for one, wasn’t feeling safe enough when morning came. As of this writing (Monday early afternoon) things seem to have settled into a recognizable quiet. For the time being, at least. This evening we are planning another opportunity to get together and build community resilience, because that’s the name of the game. That’s what it’s all about. The strength of a community is measured in its resilience, and we on Nirim, are nothing if not resilient. That is how we beat terror.
Some Operation Shield and Arrow statistics Kibbutz Nirim
- Appx 150 people remained on the kibbutz
- Appx 350 evacuated
- Appx 240 evacuated as a group
- 8 rockets exploded within the kibbutz, many around in the fields – not all have been located as of this writing.
- The pool was damaged by a rocket, as was a children’s day care center, and various infrastructures.