‘We’re not returning until this is over’

Families take refuge from rocket fire in central and northern Israel;

OFRI VOLK (right) and her 17-year-old daughter, Gal, stand by the entrance to the shelter on Netiv Ha’asara, a moshav less than 1 km. from the Gaza border on Wednesday. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
OFRI VOLK (right) and her 17-year-old daughter, Gal, stand by the entrance to the shelter on Netiv Ha’asara, a moshav less than 1 km. from the Gaza border on Wednesday.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Two blouses and a pair of jeans was all Ofri Volk put in her small suitcase in July.
At the time, the tall, silver- haired, mother of three thought she would only be away from her Gaza border home for a few days.
Instead, she and her family traveled like refugees for a month or so, spending nights in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Givat Olga.
This time around, as summer heads into fall, she was wiser as she headed back on the road with her children and a larger suitcase.
“We are not returning home until this is over,” Volk said on Sunday from Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael in the center of the country, where she had found refuge.
Volk and her children are one of some 80 families out of the 230 on Netiv Ha’asara, a moshav located less than a kilometer from the Gaza border, who have left their home to escape continued rocket and mortar fire, that at times sent them running for safety several times an hour.
When she first moved to Netiv Ha’asara 12-years ago she thought she had found a quiet, idyllic corner of the country in which to raise her children.
“Life was good here once,” she said, subsequently correcting that, “it was very good.”
“But for years now, that has not been the situation,” she said.
It is not the first time that Gaza violence has forced them to leave. They left briefly during Operation Cast Lead in the winter of 2008 - 2009 and in Operation Defensive Shield in 2002.
But they were not away for long and the danger has only grown since then.
Even while they were away in July, it was hard to truly comprehend how impossible life had become. Twice they tried to return and twice they lasted less than a day, Volk said.
The impact was so traumatic, than even when they came home after the eight-day cease-fire began earlier this month, Volk said she didn’t believe the sudden silence was real.
“Just when I started to breathe normally,” she said, the sirens began to wail and the cease-fire broke down.
Volk first spoke with The Jerusalem Post last Wednesday, when she was still in shock that mortar shells were once more falling on her moshav.
She started her day in the office at an agriculture company on the moshav when the constant attacks made it impossible to work.
Volk was unsure whether to the leave. Her daughter Gal, 17, wanted to stay.
At they sat on a wooden bench outside the moshav’s war room, where an emergency team was busy trying to place families, a warning siren sent them running for safety.
Volk said she could not believe how the situation had grown worse over the years, from occasional attacks to hourly ones, plus the possibility of infiltration tunnels.
“Maybe if we had all left when the first ‘drop’ [attacks] occurred this would not be happening now,” she said.
Instead protected rooms and shelters were built, as if this was the new normal, Volk said.
Her daughter Gal said that it was the tunnels that most frightened her.
“She says that because she is used to the rockets. I do not accept it. I do not accept that it is normal.”
On Wednesday, they thought they would stay put because after all, “this is our home,” Volk said.
By Thursday their resolve started to erode and they headed out, first to Beersheba. On Friday, after continued attacks, including one that killed four-year-old boy Daniel Tragerman, in Nahal Oz, it broke down all together Volk said.
Now she only wants to return home, once the threat of attack has been eliminated once and for all.
“This is not the kind of danger you should be playing with,” she said. “We do not want our children to be in danger and we are tired of running,” she said.