I live on Kibbutz Nirim, two kilometers from the border with the Gaza Strip. My personal way of dealing with the security challenges with which we live, is to “do,” and have become an activist. Like Hillel said: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” So I am a member of Achdut Im Hadarom (Solidarity with the South) and we do what we can to raise awareness of the situation down here.
When we started hearing rumors of a possible visit by PM Netanyahu to the large army base nearby, we started planning to go there. We readied signs and red shirts, I brought my camera and we planned to be visible at the entrance to the army base as he drove in from the helicopter pad. Because we feel that we do not get the attention we deserve down here. We deserve the same security as the rest of the country. We deserve to be updated about the security situation by our leaders, not by Hamas. We deserve to have leaders who devise policy, a roadmap which can be followed. We deserve a government that is proactive rather than reactive. Unfortunately, as patriots who live here, work here, and raise our families in the shadow of the rockets, down-wind from the terror/arson balloon fires that burn our crops and our wildlife, we feel invisible.
Unfortunately, rather than bringing the Prime Minister through the front gate with his motorcade after he landed, the cars drove through a side entrance, circumventing the small group of Gaza Envelope residents who had gathered, just in the hope that he would actually see us.
What we learned later on, was that not only are we — the citizens of the region — invisible to our leaders. So are our regional council heads. The local mayors had been invited to participate in the meeting inside the base. However what they did NOT realize was that not only were the Gaza Envelope mayors invited, but so were the other 16 mayors of all of the cities and regions in the south. Not that our mayors have anything against their colleagues. They respect them and appreciate the challenges that they face in their regions, since it it not always easy for communities to thrive so far from the center of the country; being a part of the Israeli periphery.
But, with all due respect, the issues that our mayors need to deal with, when their consituants live in a constant state of routine-emergency, are totally different to the rest of the regions. When you have a rise of tens of percentage points in the numbers of citizens — especially children – requiring psychological aid in all of the four Gaza-border regions, when you have farmers who need aid and compensation for the crops they have lost, when you have roads that are crumbling under the traffic of aid streaming through the one major artery bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza, your needs cannot be compared to anyplace else in the country – let alone: the entire south.
When they realized that the purpose of the meeting was not for dealing with these acute issues, two out of the four Gaza Envelope mayors decided to vote with their feet. Gadi Yarkoni, mayor of the Eshkol regional council, and the Shar Hanegev mayor, Ofir Leibschtein, walked out of the meeting. Out of their devotion to their the citizens who elected them, and despite the fact that Netanyahu’s visit here is the first time in decades — if not ever — that he has come down to here to hold a formal meeting — our mayors got up and left.
They left because they know that the resiliency of their constituents is NOT an open cheque, and — apparently — our two mayors were left feeling as invisible as do their citizens.