Taking time out from visits to wounded soldiers and families of soldiers who fell in battle, President Reuven Rivlin met on Wednesday with some 50 residents of the Kfar Aza kibbutz located on the Gaza border between Netivot and Sderot.
These were the stalwarts of the kibbutz who remained behind after some 250 children were evacuated and the remaining adults either went with them to safer places elsewhere in the country or sought shelter with relatives or friends.
The evacuation was due more to fear of terrorists emerging from tunnels than from the frequency of rockets launched from Gaza. Normally the kibbutz has close to 800 residents. Shaking the hands of those who stayed, Rivlin remarked that Kfar Aza now resembles a ghost town because everything is closed down. “It’s only when you come here that you realize what Operation Preventive Edge has done to defend the home front,” he said.
After observing the destruction that had been wrought, Rivlin told the kibbutzniks that the responsibility for rehabilitation was not on their shoulders but on the shoulders of the State of Israel. The reconstruction and development of all the communities in the region constituted an urgent national mission, he said and it was the obligation of the state to provide all the economic and emotional support that is required.
Rivlin recalled that he was still a schoolboy when Kfar Aza was founded in 1951, and said that it and other kibbutzim, moshvim and towns in the area had brought much honor to the country.
Addressing himself to all the residents of the south who have moved to the center and north of the country, Rivlin urged them to return to their homes, pledging that the IDF would be stationed at their gates and would protect them.
“Only the future will prove the significance of Operation Preventive Edge” said Rivlin. The threat of the tunnels has been removed at this stage, he added, and the continued presence of the IDF will restore quiet and security.
He regretted that Gaza which could have been an economic success story based largely on tourism and excellent neighborly relations with Kfar Aza, had fallen victim to the tyranny of Hamas which glorifies death while Israelis sanctify life.
Aware of complaints of residents of peripheral communities that they are not being given the same elementary considerations as people living in the center of the country, Rivlin declared that all citizens should have the same rights, privileges and obligations.
The communities on the confrontation line were always at the heart of Zionist strategy, he said, noting that those on the Gaza Strip had endured 14 years of problematic security concerns.
He was confident that decisions made by the prime minister in consultation with the defense establishment would help to eliminate some of the security fears of the past.
What is needed now he said is national unity. Israel excels at unity in crisis situations in which there is an existential threat, he noted, but it was equally important to be united at other times, regardless of differences of opinion and ideologies. It is always important to listen to the other and to respect the other’s worldview, he stated