The Gaza Strip is so close to Moira Dror’s home in Netiv Ha’asara that, while doing the dishes, she can look out of her kitchen window and see Hamas operatives positioned at one of the terrorist group’s several observation points.
This proximity to the Islamist stronghold has created a unique dichotomy in the life of the beautiful moshav, a community with a blissfully idyllic backdrop to its life, yet facing the fear of a terrorist statelet on its doorstep.
And the publication of the State Comptroller’s Report on the handling of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014 has brought these concerns once again to the fore.
Netiv Ha’asara is a farming community, with a beautiful pastoral charm, lemon trees heavily laden with fruit and delightful little flower pots dotted all around.
At first glance, it appears to be a bucolic wonderland of whitewashed cottages with red-tiled roofs, all laid out in neat rows with gardens of all shapes and sizes abutting the homes, complete with shrubs, trees and date palms, giving shade and fruit to their owners.
But the rocket-proof bomb shelters built every few hundred meters along the moshav’s roads, the cottages pockmarked with shrapnel holes and the Gaza border wall within a stone’s throw are signs that the idyll has been spoiled somewhat.
Indeed, Hamas’s military infrastructure is not the only tangible evidence of the terrorists’ proximity to Dror’s home.
She can see and hear the rocket test-fires that are conducted regularly, especially on Fridays; she can hear the military chants from Hamas guerrillas on their training drills from just across the border; and she can hear construction work taking place in the territory, too.
Despite this, the last twoand- a-half years since Operation Protective Edge have been something of a respite from what was almost a decade of regular rocket and mortar fire directed from Gaza to Netiv Ha’asara and the surrounding communities.
Several years ago, Dror had an incredibly near-miss, as a mortar shell landed in a sandy area of her yard just meters from where she was hanging the wash. The soft sand absorbed much of the impact and shrapnel of the mortar round and she somehow escaped unscathed.
Although the last two-and-a- half years have given the residents a merciful respite from such attacks, Dror says, no one is really relaxed. Any loud noise – a plate dropping, a jeep gunning its engine up a hill – can give cause to run to the nearest fortified room or bomb shelter, she says.
“We’ve been in and out of bomb shelters for the past 12 years, everyone’s aware, everyone’s on their toes, even the three- and four-year-old children know immediately what to do if there’s danger,” says Dror.
And a gnawing sense of disquiet has grown again in the last few weeks, as several rockets have been launched from Gaza, while reports have surfaced that Hamas has dug some 15 terrorist attack tunnels into Israel once again.
The tunnel threat is certainly a real one for Netiv Ha’asara, where one tunnel was discovered 100 meters from the moshav’s perimeter fence during Protective Edge.
IDF discovers tunnel from Gaza underneath building on August 8, 2014 (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Coming against the background of the State Comptroller’s Report and its findings that the tunnel threat was not adequately addressed by the government, this is not an issue that can easily be ignored on the moshav.
Shaike Shaked, another veteran resident of Netiv Ha’asara, says that the twoand- a-half years of quiet since the last war have been welcome, given the decade of incessant shelling that preceded them.
“It was like a battlefield here, rockets and mortars being fired, some of them exploding over your head as Iron Dome intercepted them. Who wants to live with explosions and such things in your daily life?” he asks.
Shaked was wounded in two separate mortar attacks, one some 10 years ago when he was sitting in his living room with his wife and sixmonth- old grandchild, both of whom were mercifully unhurt.
His whole neighborhood, lying a quarter-kilometer from the Gaza border wall, has been peppered with more than 100 mortar shells, killing one woman, wounding several others and damaging residents’ homes. A worker from Thailand was killed in the agricultural fields and hothouses in a separate area of the moshav as well.
Since Protective Edge ended, however, life has been more enjoyable.
“It has been fun to work, to sleep, to live, without this carrying on, to have a more normal life,” he says.
Yet he says that there is still tension and fear of the tunnels, not to mention renewed rocket fire, noting that Hamas leaders have boasted of the new tunnels they have dug.
But despite the fears, Shaked and Dror insist that life on the moshav is not lived in constant fear and panic.
“We’re getting on with life, we’re building new kindergartens, we’re building up the moshav. We get out of the house, things carry on as usual,” says Dror. “I don’t go to bed scared, I’m not thinking the whole time that something might happen.”
Nevertheless, the State Comptroller’s Report gives Dror pause. An avid news consumer, she says that she wants to believe that the country’s leadership is doing its best to deal with the security challenges Netiv Ha’asara and the state at large have to deal with.
“I want to believe that the best is being done to make us safe, but everyone is being criticized, so I don’t know whom you can trust, or who can lead the country to be in a better place,” she says.
For both Shaked and Dror, one thing is certain: They are not leaving Netiv Ha’asara because of the security concerns, and neither has anyone else.
“This is my home. I started from nothing, from empty land; nothing was here; and now the first tree I planted is still here, the first hothouse I built is here. My children were born here, my grandchildren now live here. I can’t run away,” says Shaked defiantly.
“First it was the North, then it was the South, pretty soon it will be the Center. We can’t be apathetic, we have to deal with these problems with strength and intelligence. But the one thing we can’t do is run.”