Shani Weinberg was standing in her kitchen on Wednesday evening when she saw a mortar streak across the sky in the distance.
There was no warning siren before or after, just the sound of the mortar as it exploded in the distance.
“First we heard a big noise,” Weinberg recounted less than two hours later. She was calm as she described the incident to The Jerusalem Post outside her home, located near Rafah on the Gaza and Egyptian borders.
As she spoke, one could hear the sound of explosions from the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.
In spite of the sounds reverberating through the hot, hazy air over the last few days, the three mortars that fell in her community on Wednesday evening sounded different, so that residents knew right away they had been targeted.
“I told my daughters to go to the safe room,” said Weinberg, who is a mother of six girls ages 10 and under. A few of them stood next to her now as she talked, trying to push her toward the house so they could have dinner.
While she and her daughters sat in the safe room, a mortar sailed over their two-story stucco house and landed in a sandy pile of dirt in the back yard. The sand absorbed the bulk of the blast, but even so, shrapnel created pockmarks on all the walls in back of the structure and damaged the windows.
Shrubbery lining the patio caught fire from the blast, scorching the ground from brown to black.
Weinberg said she had only understood how narrowly they had escaped harm when she emerged from the safe room and saw her neighbors already in the yard.
Among them was Tzurit Yarchy, originally from the Gaza settlement of Netzarim, which was evacuated during the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza. Weinberg was from the evacuated Gaza settlement of Neveh Dekalim.
Yarchy said half of the families in her community were from Gaza, where they had survived quite a number of rocket and mortar attacks.
“We know this reality from Gush Katif,” Yarchy said.
But Wednesday’s attack marked the first time in the community’s four-year history that mortars or rockets had fallen so close to their homes.
In the past, they fell outside the community, Yarchy said.
“It was a miracle,” she said, that the mortar had fallen into the sand and hadn’t landed on the Weinberg home.
To underscore how close the community had come to disaster, she pointed to a house just across the street and noted that 10 children had been playing on its porch at the time of the attack.
There was an immediate sense of panic and confusion, she said, as families worked to locate their children, many of whom were outside playing, to make sure that everyone was safe and unharmed.
She said that when she had gone to the Weinberg home, Shani had hugged her and said, “This reminds me of Gush Katif.”
Still, Yarchy continued, the families that had moved there understood that they had not placed themselves in the easiest or safest spot.
The community of low-level stucco ranch-style homes laid out across sandy dunes is made up of idealistic religious families.
“We wanted to live here because it was important,” said Yarchy. “We wanted a place where we could contribute to Israel, and this is the place that we found.”
She added, “We are praying for the success of this [IDF] operation.”