Southern Front: Was this the last straw for the ‘resilient’ South?

Residents of Gaza border communities are fed up with their ‘normal’

By
November 15, 2018 21:05
RESIDENTS OF Sderot protest on Tuesday against the government’s decision to accept a ceasefire with

RESIDENTS OF Sderot protest on Tuesday against the government’s decision to accept a ceasefire with Hamas. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

"Resilience” is a word that pops up over and over again every time residents of Gaza border communities are forced to grin and bear a new onslaught of missiles slamming their communities, as they huddle in their safe rooms for days on end until they get the green light from the Home Front Command to resume normal life.

But southern residents are fed up with their “normal” – putting on a brave face going back to their routines but many living with trauma and all shrouded in uncertainty about when the next round of violence will start up again.

This time, upon hearing the news of another fragile ceasefire with Hamas – the latest in a long series of such ceasefires – southern residents swiftly rallied to express their anger and frustration. They are no longer prepared to be frayerim (suckers). They blocked roads and burned tires on Tuesday night, and they continued to do so on Wednesday and Thursday, joined by school students who went on strike. On Thursday evening, they planned to take the strike to Tel Aviv, intending to raise awareness by blocking roads in front of Azrieli.

On Tuesday, as media began reporting about an impending ceasefire, high school teacher and Nirim resident Adele Raemer posted a video message to the Facebook group she manages, “Life on the border with Gaza – things people may not know (but should).” In it, she explained how she and her neighbors were feeling about the reports.

“I have to say I’m kind of ambivalent,” she said, letting out a sigh. “I want there to be a ceasefire because I want my life back, I want a ceasefire because I want our kids to be able to walk outside and feel safe.

“However, I want it to be a ceasefire that is really, really a ceasefire,” she emphasized. ”I want it to be a ceasefire that includes no more fires because no more [incendiary] balloons and kites are being sent over,” she said in reference to a new tactic Palestinians in Gaza began using in the spring which has caused widespread damage to land in the South. “I want it to be a ceasefire that includes no more violent demonstrations on the fences,” she added, with reference to the “Great March of Return” demonstrations held by Gazans on a weekly basis since March.

“I want it to be a ceasefire that includes no more infiltrations. So are we getting this kind of ceasefire? Or are we getting a ceasefire that says, ‘For now we will stop firing rockets at each other, but we’re going to continue with all the other crap,’” she continued.

“Here, it ain’t over ever, really. So I want it to be over already, really really over. We’ve all had enough, our side and their side. We’ve got to find a way to end this,” Raemer concluded.

IT’S NOT only the adults who have had enough.

Kfar Aza resident Ayelet Shachar-Epstein told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the youths have been a huge inspiration to the adults in recent weeks.

Last week, approximately 6,000 high school students from Gaza border towns and their supporters marched some 90 kilometers to Jerusalem in an effort to effect change, wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the plea “Let us grow up in peace.”

Ayelet’s 17-year-old, Netta, and 13-year-old daughter, Rona, were among the students who began the march from the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council high school.

The family spoke to the Post over the phone as they traveled home from Tel Aviv, where they had spent the past couple of days in search of refuge from the rain of rockets.

“I think that after 400 rockets fired toward Israel, it [the ceasefire] is like surrendering to Hamas, and I think personally that Israel needs to respond. We didn’t go to school today – we went on a strike,” Netta said.

“The power coming from our teenagers is actually astonishing, it’s amazing,” Ayelet gushed. “They are saying: ‘No more will our childhood be robbed by Hamas and by the Israeli government. You are not seeing us; we, the southern people, are transparent to the State of Israel. You’re not looking at us. We have been suffering for so many years, and there is no discussion regarding our situation.’”

Many adults, she said, have in vain been trying to convey this message for some time.

“They haven’t been able to garner attention, but the teens have,” she said, noting that the march to Jerusalem began with 100 teens and ended with thousands. “So many people came to support them, but the State of Israel seems not to care at all. But this time, after they said there is a ceasefire and said everyone can go back to routine, they [the youths] said ‘No routine.’

“Our youths showed us that they have a high level of principles, and they brought us a lot of pride,” Ayelet continued. “Now they are the ones who are teaching us with how they organized themselves and took the task upon themselves because they are simply not prepared to live like this anymore, and all the adults followed them.”

“We don’t want to go to a war, but I’d rather finish it now, because now Israel did not finish it. We lost the power of retaliation and will have to do this again in two weeks or two months,” Netta said.

“We have no energy left,” Ayelet chimed in.

She said that upon receiving a message the night before that they could go back to routine – “because all of a sudden there was peace in the region,” she remarked sarcastically – her youngest daughter started crying and asking why they must leave Tel Aviv and return home.

She promised her daughter that next time there is a Color Red rocket-warning siren, they would leave Kfar Aza as soon as the first siren sounds, and not wait a whole night like they did this time. “And there will be another Color Red – we all know that,” she asserted.

“The best is when we go to school and there is a routine, because that is what we are used to,” added seven-year-old Alma.
“My point of view is a peace-loving point of view,” Ayelet clarified. “I wish we could have not been in this situation; but since we are, I wish there could have been a peaceful way out of it. I have no faith in my government to get us out of this peacefully, and that deeply disappoints me.

“But we still hope for a diplomatic solution, through talking, and despite our difficulties to believe in it; it is what we want the most. We wouldn’t want to go into a state of war, but our strength to continue in this uncertain situation of indecision is fading,” Ayelet concluded.

MEANWHILE, FROM Ashkelon, British-Israeli Magen David Adom volunteer Beverly Jamil told the Post that she is unequivocally against the ceasefire.

“I want things to be normal, I want to see people happy, normal, children going out and not having panic attacks,” she said.
One of the rockets that struck Ashkelon landed opposite her home.

“I was there, going door to door, trying to check people were OK. It’s not nice when you’re trying to calm a child down, and then there’s another siren and you’re back to square one,” she related.

“It was frightening. Everything was pitch-black, and the children are in the safe room with candles and they are hysterical. And then there is another attack, and the children want to leave the room but you can’t let them,” she continued.

She said she hadn’t had time to go to the protests, due to errands that had piled up over the past few days, and though she supports their message, she wouldn’t have wanted her children to go.

“As far as I’m concerned, things are still touch and go,” she explained.

Though she is against the ceasefire, she does not wish for a war.

“I don’t want a war. We already went through Operation Protective Edge,” she said.

Questioned over what solution she seeks, she responded: “The ideal situation is that it will be solved diplomatically; something needs to be done. The Egyptians are doing their best to try to help us, but our government isn’t.

“I want a ceasefire, but I want a proper ceasefire.”


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