New Olim in southern Israel cope with the latest wave of attacks

"My husband feels guilty for bringing me here."

Shrapnel in Kibbutz Zikim (photo credit: Courtesy)
Shrapnel in Kibbutz Zikim
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As the latest barrage of rockets from Gaza hit residents of southern Israel, new immigrants are experiencing the rockets in all their intensity.
While there has been a push by Nefesh B’Nefesh and other immigrant organizations to encourage new olim to move to the periphery because of the high quality of life there and the opportunity to live in close-knit communities and in affordable housing, they told The Jerusalem Post that attacks have come more and more frequently to interrupt the otherwise idyllic life of the areas along the border.
For some olim, the price is starting to be too high.
“I feel abandoned by the government,” said Deborah Benson-Ben Aderet, 42, a resident of Kibbutz Zikim and a mother of two. “I feel Hamas is our government: they are the ones who determine when we can leave the house and when we can sleep.”
Benson-Ben Aderet made aliyah from the United States in 2011. For the first few years, she lived in Tel Aviv. Then, she got married to a resident of Zikim, which is located about three km. from Gaza. They lived in Ashkelon, before moving to the kibbutz two and a half years ago.
“When we decided to move here, we knew about the risk of rocket attacks, but we thought it would be a sporadic situation,” she noted. “Then Hamas started to send incendiary kites and balloons, and rockets have started becoming part of the routine.
“We live in a war zone,” she continued. “They target my children and innocent civilians, we hit empty buildings: this is not the way you conduct a war.”
Her two girls are aged four and two, and Benson-Ben Aderet explained that they are starting to understand what is happening. On Sunday, they were both at home as she was interviewed by the Post, since day cares and schools were canceled due to the security situation.
“My eldest is scared of the noises and she keeps on asking why we have so many red alerts,” she said. “Thank God, their room is a shelter. Last night, I could not sleep because of the constant noise, between the rockets and the Iron Dome responses. At some point, we felt a strong smell of burning. We checked our property and everything seemed OK. This morning, we learned that a rocket had fallen in a kibbutz near ours. I keep on receiving pictures of shrapnel in the backyards from our neighbors. Zikim security service warned us not to approach fallen things.”
Benson-Ben Aderet’s husband works in Sderot. Despite the situation, his company called the employees in, while she is home with the girls. She explained that she was supposed to go grocery shopping today but she won’t. For today, they will manage.
“If this was happening in Tel Aviv – if [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s children were serving here, as my nephews are – a solution would be found,” she said in anger. “My husband says that the government has never been weaker, and the situation has never been so tense as in the past few years. If we had known about the kites, the balloons, the rockets, we might have not moved here. A beautiful house is not worth the mental health of our children... Yesterday my husband told me he feels guilty for bringing me here.”
ACCORDING TO Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that promotes immigration to Israel from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, since its foundation in 2002 about 2,000 people have made aliyah to southern Israel from these countries.
NBN also runs a specific program titled Go Beyond South for olim who want to move or relocate to the South.
Daniela Fubini, a new immigrant from Italy and a resident of Kochav Michael – a moshav 20 km. from the Gaza Strip between Ashkelon and Kiryat Gat – also shares this frustration against the government.
Fubini made aliyah in 2008, living in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv before moving to Kochav Michael about a year ago.
“In this area, the population lives in very scattered moshavim and villages,” she explained. “In the past year, Hamas has not targeted us [that] often. However, in the past day, sirens sounded six or seven times, three of which were in the middle of the night. I’m not scared, but I find their tactic of depriving us of sleep especially heinous.”
Fubini is not optimistic about the future.
“The political impasse is such that I feel the situation could go on like this for another thirty years,” she continued. “There are a million residents in the South. Maybe we should all take to the streets of the country to ask for a change. However, since the elections have shown that most people down here support Bibi, also this scenario is unlikely.”
However, Fubini said that she has no intention of leaving.
“I think that the feeling of living in a place of beauty, in an area where one experiences the connection with the land – while Hamas only wants to burn and destroy – gives me and many others a sense of pride,” Fabini concluded. “And the proof is that the population in this area is booming, mostly of families with children. We are not giving up.”