I went home yesterday. Correction: I went back to what HAD been my home for almost 48 years, until October 7, 2023.
I got a ride from our temporary refuge in Eilat, from another Nirim member, who left me off at the entrance to Kibbutz Tze’elim, where I switched cars.
That’s when I stopped breathing.
I continued the final 20 minutes of the journey in a car with a team from the BBC who, aside from filming and telling our story, also helped me empty my fridge, throw out the garbage – they even washed the dust off my car and jump-started it.
After packing up everything on my list (and then some), and futilely watering my already half-dead houseplants, I took the crew to see the sections of the kibbutz that had been hit the hardest: the burnt house where Uriel, Amy, baby Kai and his grandmother escaped with their lives through the fire-licked window, and the house where Doron z”l and Mor z”l weren’t as lucky. We saw the charcoaled skeletons of cars, the collapsed porches where, a mere few hours prior to the attack, people had been celebrating in their sukkot. We saw the blood stained floor where my heroic son-in-law saved the lives of my granddaughters.
Nirim didn’t smell like home. Usually, it smells like a mixture of fresh green and sweet earth and cow manure mixed with milk. Eau de Nirim. Yesterday, I didn’t recognize any of the smells. Yesterday, I smelt burnt ashes from the homes set alight, incinerated cars and turkey excrement, from the hundreds of turkeys roaming the region, after escaping from the turkey coops of neighboring Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha.
It was frightening and tense walking around my community yesterday, where just half an hour before we arrived, a rocket had exploded on one of the houses. I was lucky yesterday. At any moment another rocket alert could have sounded. At any random second, a barrage, like the one of the morning of October 7th, could have caught us outside. Had it been a mortar, we might not even have had the luxury of a 10-second warning.
I was relieved to be on the road again, driving my car, accompanied by a fellow refugees from Nirim, back to Eilat.
The hardest part of leaving was not knowing when I would ever be able to return.
When we passed Tze’elim, leaving Eshkol and most of the mid-ranged rockets behind, I started to breathe again.
One more thing: usually my posts are edited and polished by my dear friend Judith Weinstein-Haggai. I apologize for this post being less elegant than usual; it is without her edits, due to the fact that she, her husband, and hundreds of other friends and neighbors are still being held hostage by our ruthless enemies, in Gaza. Please help us bring them home.