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Photo by: SAM SOKOL
Israeli inhabitants of areas around Gaza flee embattled South
By SAM SOKOL
07/29/2014
Communities along border have had half their total population move due to the war, Eshkol Regional Council spokeswoman tells the 'Post.'
 
Rosie Weisel pointed to the jagged glass where a piece of shrapnel from a Hamas rocket penetrated the reinforced window of the Kibbutz Sa’ad general store, just over three kilometers from the Gaza border.

Living in the Gaza-adjacent community you see miracles on a regular basis, she said, pointing out a hole dug into the nearby turf by a Hamas missile.

An American immigrant with several children serving in the IDF reserves, Weisel has remained in Sa’ad with her husband and mother while her daughter-in-law and grandchildren fled to the North to escape the rocket fire. Sitting in her living room, Weisel described living under fire as the sound of Israeli artillery punctuated the conversation.

Hamas fire from the Gaza Strip comes in spurts in the afternoon, she said.

“This is rush hour so that’s why they do it. That’s my opinion.”

Only 300 or so residents remain in the religious kibbutz out of a pre-war total of 800, she continued, saying that in the mornings she goes out into her garden to listen to the dueling artillery and rocket firings.

As Weisel explained that in the communities near the Gaza border, one doesn’t get much of a warning of incoming missiles, Jon, a family friend interjected, saying that instead of hearing a warning siren and then an explosion, one hears both almost simultaneously.

All of the young people and children have left, one of Weisel’s grown sons added, prompting her to say that she would not leave.

Though she feels “psychologically tired,” Weisel said those who are older and whose children have moved away have no reason to leave.

While she is not nervous, she added, even about the threat of attacks from cross border tunnels, she does worry about what the future will hold.

Communities like Sa’ad along the Gaza border have had half their total population move due to the war, Eshkol Regional Council spokeswoman Ronit Minkar told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

“We suppose that something like 50 percent of the people are out of here,” she said.

The closer a community is to the border the less residents remain, she explained, saying that communities such as Kerem Shalom and Ein Hashlosha have only “something like 20% of the people there.”

“These are the communities that have the most shooting and the tunnels in this area,” Minkar said. Life in the Eshkol region, located on the eastern border of the Gaza strip is a “war zone,” she continued.

“You can’t sleep at night.

You hear all the time noises of bombing from both sides,” and more than 500 Kassams have fallen since the beginning of hostilities, she said.

“We don’t have the Iron Dome so its all going down here.”

According to Kerem Shalom resident Amit, there are almost no women or children left in the kibbutz, leaving only essential agricultural workers and residents who take part in guard duty.

“Until a few days ago we had no children and no wives [here] because it is too dangerous,” he said. “Over the last few days they started to come back to the kibbutz. As of today we have three families with children.”

Most of the families from the kibbutz of 140 residents have gone to a kibbutz on the northern border, he said, creating a “different atmosphere.”

Despite the exodus from the Eshkol region, however, residents of nearby Sderot said there has been little movement from their city.

While there are those who have left with their children, they aren’t the majority, said Rachmiel, a 60-year-old resident of the border town.

“In my neighborhood no one left,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by the neighborhood children, several of whom said that they were used to the rocket fire and they were determined to stick it out.

As the residents of Sa’ad, Kerem Shalom and other Eshkol kibbutzim try to maintain the rhythm of their daily lives under fire and with greatly reduced populations, the war continues to come to them.

Five Hamas terrorists were killed trying to infiltrate Kibbutz Nahal Oz just after Weisel spoke with the Post, prompting the IDF to call on Eshkol residents to remain in their homes while an almost simultaneous mortar attack killed four people and injured a further 10.

Despite the ongoing violence, Weisel said she will not leave.

“I cannot face leaving,” she told the Post.
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