Residents of Gaza border communities fatigued by endless cycle of violence

Sderot’s 24,000 people were victim to rocket strikes Wednesday.

Home which was struck by a rocket overnight in Yad Mordechai (photo credit: TAMARA ZIEVE)
Home which was struck by a rocket overnight in Yad Mordechai
(photo credit: TAMARA ZIEVE)
She was packing her belongings from her rocket-ravaged home, preparing to decamp from Kibbutz Yad Mordechai to stay with relatives in the center of the country, when we knocked on her door Thursday afternoon. Still she invited us in and offered us a cold drink.
The kibbutznik whose house suffered a direct hit by a Qassam in the middle of the night did not want her identity disclosed, but she shared her night’s horror with The Jerusalem Post.
“It was hard yesterday,” she began. The family had moved into its reinforced room for the night and her four-year-old son was sleeping.
Because of the constant wailing of sirens, she was awake when a rocket smashed into her roof at 3 a.m. Plaster and dust covered the floor and dining room table.
“My son half understands, and is a bit frightened,” she said. “I hope there will be peace and there won’t be the need for an operation in Gaza,” she continued. “They need to do what they need to do, but I hope for peace and that the soldiers won’t need to go.”
Sderot’s 24,000 people were also victim to rocket strikes Wednesday. Four projectiles slammed into the city. Though Thursday was quieter, most of the rattled residents stayed indoors close to a bomb shelter.
United Hatzalah volunteer medic Yaakov Bar Yochai told the Post of his normal Wednesday turned into a night of chaos. He had been preparing to visit a friend in nearby Netivot when the first siren blared. Rushing his five young children to the shelter, he grabbed his United Hatzalah dispatch radio.
The first explosion came from a rocket that crashed in the next street. There he found a wounded man in his fifties with blood spurting from his hand.
“I gave him [first aid] until an ambulance came. Then I got another report, and went to another address to treat people suffering from anxiety. I went the whole night from scene to scene, treating people,” he said.
Ofek Shitrit, 21, spoke to the Post while eating hummus at the unusually vacant Hummus Shel Tehina restaurant.
“Our house shook and in the house next door their windows broke,” Shtrit said, who, after spending less than a minute in the shelter, had hurried to the scene. “That’s how it is here,” he shrugs. He found smoke, lots of shrapnel and two damaged cars there.
Shitrit’s friend and lunch partner, Ofek Didi, 21, called him when he heard about the rocket landing. Didi is in the army and had been away at his base Wednesday, but checked in with friends and family who spent the night in reinforced rooms.
“We all check in with each other,” said Shitrit, adding that he feels residents of the rest of the country are unaware of the situation in the Gaza border communities.
“I feel that people who live in the center don’t understand our reality, and don’t know what it is to hear this all night. It’s a state of war,” he said.
“I’m trying to raise awareness.” He added even to see social media posts of solidarity from their fellow countrymen would be a welcome sight.
“That was the first night that I didn’t sleep. We have gone through a lot of nights like this, but there were so, so, so many sirens and Iron Dome interceptions and explosions, also from the IDF attacking [in Gaza],” he said.
Shitrit is the eldest of three children. His 14-year-old sister suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. “My parents try to be open and talk about everything. Otherwise it’s a recipe for anxiety,” he said.
His pet Labrador too, has developed trauma since Operation Protective Edge four years ago and displays signs of anxiety whenever a siren goes off.
Shitrit vowed he will never leave Sderot.
“We’re strong. But what I really want to see is for the leadership to take control,” he added, expressing exhaustion from the ongoing cycles of violence. “I want them to find a solution – something that lasts. There is always quiet for a short time and then it starts up again.”
Sderot is home to many who were not born and raised there. Karin Maymon, 24, a waitress at the hummus restaurant, is from Mazkeret Batya. She spent her IDF service in the area, and today is a student at the city’s Sapir Academic College.
Wednesday night felt as though the whole of Sderot was shaking from the rocket barrage, she said.  The city was tense the next day, she added. The normally bustling hummus hangout where she works was only at a third of its typical capacity, she observed.
“I’m very Zionist,” she told the Post. “And I believe we need to be here, and not to run away.”
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.