‘Only the holy men protect us here’

Yakov Zagari’s house, which is well within rocket range of Gaza, has a wood and tile roof and no safe room.

Baby in window of Netivot home damaged by Grad  (photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
Baby in window of Netivot home damaged by Grad
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
If the rocket that crashed into the bus stop outside Daniel Ohayon’s kiosk in Netivot around 7:30 Monday morning had landed only an hour later, a busload of kids could have lost their lives, Ohayon told The Jerusalem Post.
“Around 8:30 a.m., the bus stop is full of kids waiting to get taken to school, if the rocket had fallen then, there would have been a bus full of kids where it landed,” Ohayon said, adding that he was at home when the rocket hit, and found out when he checked an Internet news site and saw a picture of his store beneath the headline “Rocket strike in Netivot.”
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired some 20 rockets and mortars into southern Israel on Monday, injuring four people and leaving 43 others suffering from shock.
In the late morning on Monday, Ohayon and a group of local residents of the western Negev town of around 25,000 cleaned up the broken glass and tree branches from outside the store, while electrical workers repaired a damaged power line overhead. Next door, Yakov Zagari stood on a ladder repairing tiles in his roof, which were blown away by the rocket’s shockwave along with two front windows.
Zagari’s house, which is well within rocket range of Gaza, has a wood and tile roof and no safe room. There is no shortage of the city’s residents that find themselves in similar situations. Zagari pointed to a bomb shelter at an apartment complex across the street, a few dozen meters away, a hard-to-reach distance in the 15- 30 seconds it takes for a rocket fired from Gaza to hit Netivot.
Like others, Zagari described his close call as a stroke of luck or a blessing, a not uncommon sentiment in the city made famous by the tomb of Moroccan Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, better known as the “Baba Sali,” who was buried in the city after his death in 1984.
A shattered portrait of the Baba Sali hung on the wall of Lanit Buzaglo’s house across the street from the site of the rocket strike, where a pile of shattered glass sat in the middle of the living room on Monday.
Buzaglo, a 40-year-old religious mother of four, said that on Sunday night, she got a sudden feeling that the city would be targeted on Monday, and moved a mattress out to the living room so that she and her kids could be closer to the door if the Code Red siren goes off and they have to run to the bomb shelter a floor below.
Every hour on the hour throughout the night, Buzaglo checked news updates on her iPad, before finally hearing a siren in the early morning and scrambling to gather her kids before realizing there was no time to make it to the shelter.
“In the end, we just stood right here against the wall in the hallway.
We had nowhere to run, but if we hadn’t heard the siren and had stayed on the mattress, all the glass you see here would have flown into us,” Buzaglo said. At her feet, her three-year-old daughter Noa sat silent and appeared dazed, her mother saying she had been in shock since she heard the blast earlier in the morning.
Buzaglo said that the majority of the people in the city, especially in the older neighborhoods, do not have safe rooms in their apartments or a close distance away. In addition, the city is at the moment not covered by the Iron Dome rocket defense system.
“Only the tzadikim [holy men] protect us”, Buzaglo said, pointing to the Babi Sali portrait.
Netivot Municipality spokesman Benny Cohen said that the city does have a shortage of public bomb shelters, but that most residents live close to one of the 70 or so public shelters in the city. In addition, he said, the IDF Home Front Command has placed portable concrete bunkers and drainage pipers around the city to help those without access to a shelter, and the city has called on people to volunteer to let their private storage rooms be used as bomb shelters for those in need.
He said the main problem is that many of the houses built in the 90s to take in new immigrants, like Zagari’s house, have wooden roofs and lack safe rooms. In addition, he said there are a number of recently built religious schools in the city that hold their classes in trailer homes, which lack any sort of protection.
Netivot was hit again on Monday afternoon, when a Grad rocket struck outside a ceramics factory in the local industrial district.
Like the strike earlier in the day, if not for the Code Red siren, there would likely have been fatalities, as the rocket landed in a part of the factory complex where seconds earlier several workers had been loading pallets.
The rocket left a crater about a meter deep in the asphalt, and within an hour of the strike had been removed from the earth by a bomb squad as workers began returning to their posts at the factory for the last few hours of the workday.