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Resilience: Reflections of a teacher from the Gaza envelope

After more than 22 hours of rocket fire, the regularly scheduled program was the best thing for all of us
A map distributed on May 30, 2018 by the Israeli military, detailing the targets of more than 100 mortar shells and rockets fired from the Gaza Strip that either landed in Israeli territory or were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
A map distributed on May 30, 2018 by the Israeli military, detailing the targets of more than 100 mortar shells and rockets fired from the Gaza Strip that either landed in Israeli territory or were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

I live and work on the border with the Gaza Strip. This week, we experienced 22 1/2 hours of rocket fire that was as bad as any of the worst days during the 2014 war: Operation Protective Edge.

I was working from my home on Kibbutz Nirim on Tuesday, and had to run for cover at least four times during the day. There were even more alarms that night. The post trauma and fight or flight instincts that had become second skin during the war, yet gone into partial hibernation over time, were back faster than you could say “Tzeva Adom” — Red Alert — the words that you hear when a rocket has been launched towards you when you live in the Gaza envelope.

It starts with a metallic crackle as the opening chord, a female voice, padded by an eerie echo. It whips you out of your chair or bed or car, wherever you are, and catapults you to your nearest safe haven (if you are lucky enough to have such a spot nearby). There, you wait to hear the explosion. You try to calm your breathing. You check that your loved ones are also safe (providing you had the wherewithal to grab your phone first) and then you try to get back to what you were doing, before you had to run for your life.

I am a teacher on the border, and my students all live and learn here. On Wednesday we were due to have English Day for the seventh graders — a day that is one of the most challenging of the year, entailing hours of painstaking planning for weeks before. On English Day, different stations are spread around our sprawling, green campus, manned (mostly womanned) by English teachers. The kids go to the next station at the end of each lesson. The teachers great them each time, trying to duplicate the same high-energy infectious enthusiasm with which they greeted them the first lesson. It is an exhausting day for the teachers, and one I was sure would be cancelled in light of what had gone on the day before.

In retrospect, following through with it despite our exhaustion, despite our concerns that the cease fire would not hold: it was the best thing we could have done. It was the most excellent, educational and emotional gift we could have given our students. Returning to routine as quick as possible following trauma, is the healthiest thing one can do. In this case, we provided a routine of sorts: the students were able to be with their friends, rather than being stuck at home on their own or with family. But it was not really routine, since the learning was done through puzzles or trivia games or a Druze tents or theater games, just to name a few. They learned English but also had the opportunity for an emotional outlet, in a familiar, safe environment, with peers and adults who understood what they had just been through.

Here are my reflections:

So here we remain, with the time bomb of the humanitarian disaster in Gaza ticking again, with the constant hum of drones hovering nearby, and with the arson which continues daily from the early afternoon until the evening, when the wind from the west dies down. Incendiary kites setting our fields afire, making “cease fire” into an oxymoron.

(Partial) map of Kite Arson Fires

You can read more about Life on the Border in a Facebook group that I monitor.

About the Author
Born in the USA, Adele has lived in a Kibbutz on the border with the Gaza Strip since 1975. She is a mother and a grandmother living and raising her family on the usually paradisaical, sometimes hellishly volatile border. She is affiliated with "The Movement for the Future of the Western Negev", for sanity's sake. She also moderates a FB group named "Life on the Border". Adele is a teacher of English as a Foreign Language, as well as a teacher trainer and counselor for the Israeli MoE for EFL and Digital Pedagogy. She blogs here about both Life on the Border, as well as about digital pedagogy, in "Digitally yours, @dele". She has recently become a devoted YouTuber, churning out about a YouTube a week on the topic of digital stuff. (https://goo.gl/iBVMEG) Her personal channel covers other issues close to her heart (medical clowning, Life on the Border, etc.) (https://goo.gl/uLP6D3) In addition, she is a trained medical clown and, as any southern clown would do, clowns as often as she can in the pediatric ward in the hospital in Ashkelon. Adele has 4 children, 6 grandchildren (and counting) and two dogs. She has yet to acquire a partridge in a pear tree.
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