Adam Youz has dedicated many hours as a youth counselor, helping children on a
moshav in the western Negev deal with the trauma and shock of year after year of
rocket and mortar barrages.
On Wednesday, standing in his mother’s
battered house on this bucolic kibbutz in the Eshkol region, Youz said the
trauma he had helped children deal with for so long had hit closer to home than
“My mom’s bed was right against this wall, right where the rocket
hit. If she hadn’t heard the siren and run to stand underneath the crawl space,
she wouldn’t be here any longer,” the 28-year-old Youz said.
that struck Zilpa Youz’s house left a crater more than a foot deep in the yard
and blew off almost an entire wall of her bedroom. The bedframe, armoire and
bedside table were all crushed and lying in a pile flush against the far wall of
the room, where they were thrust by the shockwaves of the blast.
the house and vacuuming the furniture with some friends from the kibbutz on
Wednesday, Adam pointed to the spot underneath the wall space where his mother
stood, one of the only spots in the apartment that is reinforced.
almost all of the rest of the houses on the kibbutz, the roof is made of wood
and in places a thin layer of rock, while the exterior walls of the house appear
to be a mix of rock and asbestos. The fragile make-up of the kibbutz houses only
adds to a feeling of vulnerability for the residents, Youz said.
kibbutz or moshav within 4.5 km. of Gaza gets fortifications built by the
government, but since we’re 4.75 km. from Gaza we miss out, all because
of 250 meters.”
The geography of the kibbutz has left it caught in a sort
of devil’s arithmetic – too close to the Gaza Strip for the Iron Dome to shoot
down projectiles in time, but not close enough to receive assistance from the
government in reinforcing houses. Also, the proximity means that when the Code
Red alarm goes off, residents have only a few seconds to get to one of the
handful of bomb shelters on the kibbutz, which include the kibbutz synagogue and
Meters away from her bedroom, Zilpa sat at a table arrayed with
coffee and snacks on the porch of her neighbors, the Schiledkroits, which had
turned into a makeshift press room as photographers and reporters filed into the
kibbutz over the course of the day.
Wearing clothes she had borrowed from
her neighbors, Zilpa said that “there are some benefits of living on a kibbutz,
if I was just a single person in the city, no one would have come to help
Indeed, despite the constant threat of rockets and mortars, the
kibbutz is remarkably green and well-manicured, and full of young children
riding bikes and milling around in the afternoon.
Zilpa, a Tel Aviv
native who moved to the kibbutz 37 years ago, said that she was awakened by
explosions from mortars and shells that blew up near her house around 4 a.m.,
and was lying in bed awake when she heard the Code Red alarm go off. She then
scurried to the spot underneath the crawl space, which has an extra layer of
stone, and waited until moments later a rocket landed only meters away, blowing
apart her bedroom and somehow leaving her unscathed.
Zilpa said her
children “always make fun of me for sleeping with the [home front command]
beeper next to the bed, but they’re not laughing today.”
caused by the rocket appears to suggest that it was significantly larger than
the typical Kassam, and residents said the explosion was louder than any they
had heard in recent years.
Orit Schiledkroit, who moved with her husband
Asaf to the kibbutz 35 years ago as part of the IDF settlement group Garin
Nahal, described the first two decades of life on the kibbutz as “a paradise
where all the kids grew up in an amazing environment.”
everything changed once the rockets began falling on the western Negev in April
2001. It only became worse after the Gaza disengagement in the summer of 2005,
she said, when armed groups in the Strip, lacking targets there, began to
increasingly direct their attacks at the Eshkol district.
education teacher at a school in the Eshkol region, she said she sees the effect
of the trauma on her students, especially on the day after heavy rocket fire
forces the closure of school.
“They’ll all be talking about it, but it
gives them an opportunity to get it out of their system and talk about what
they’re going through,” she said.
As she spoke, kibbutz residents
continued to file through the porch, joking about wanting to shake the hand of
the “now-famous Zilpa Youz” who had given a battery of interviews to the press
that day, and deriding the residents of central Israel who don’t understand what
they’re going through – a common refrain whenever a flare-up brings the rockets
down in earnest.
On Wednesday night, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he
supports efforts to fortify the kibbutzim and moshavim of the western Negev that
currently lack adequate protection.
He did not provide specifics, but
said such a plan will take a year-and-a-half, and will resume after the upcoming