'We are trying to stay calm'

In Nir Oz, Aviv Atzili leaves windows open so glass shards won't fly in the house in a rocket attack.

Atzili family 224.88 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Atzili family 224.88
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Aviv Atzili leaves the windows open all the time in his small home in Kibbutz Nir Oz on the Gaza border so glass shards won't fly through the rooms should a rocket or mortar fall nearby. Before going to sleep at night, he checks that a shirt, pants and sandals are nearby so he can slip into them quickly in case of a night time attack. His wife, Liat, worries when her three small children play on the green grass outside, even though their home itself isn't any more protected against the missiles that have rained on the area for the last seven years. "But we have told the children that there is a 'safe place' to go," Liat told The Jerusalem Post, as she and her husband described the small ways their life has changed under fire in their otherwise idyllic community. They have marked a wall in the home for their three children ages 7, 5, and 3, which they deem strong enough to offer some protection. Smoking a cigarette, she sat with her family on the patio in front of their home in the late afternoon, hours after a mortar hit the Nirlat factory at the edge of her kibbutz for the second time in less than a week. In the first attack last Thursday, Amnon Rozenberg, 51, from the neighboring Kibbutz Nirim, was killed by a rocket. In the second, on Wednesday morning, two workers were lightly wounded in the same area where a small fire broke out that was quickly extinguished. Liat said she heard about the attack from her son Netta's nursery school teacher, as she sat at her administrative job in an area high school. For the rest of the day she resisted the temptation to run home and draw her children close to her as if that offered them some protection. "We are trying to stay calm," said Liat, as she watched her children run barefoot on the patio in a heat that quickly melted the ice cubes in the water glasses on the plastic table. Out of sight from the house, a television crew set up cameras by the factory gate. From their home where they can see helicopters attack Gaza, the Atzili family has continued life as normal in a situation which they say has grown more dangerous in past months, particularly with the increase in mortar attacks for which there is no warning siren. The security cabinet meeting earlier in the day in which officials opted to give more time to work out a truce with Hamas, left the Atzili's and the rest of the kibbutz residents feeling like nothing had changed from the day before. "We have a feeling that people have forgotten us," said Nir Oz secretary Eli Elgarat. Still under threat from Palestinian launched attacks from Gaza, parents met at night to debate an option to temporarily leave for neighboring kibbutzim. But the Atzili family said that they had no intention of leaving. Liat said she is not sure exactly what would change her mind otherwise. "I said a few weeks ago that if someone will be killed, I will feel differently," said Liat, but when a fatality did occur, she still wanted to remain. "I'm always rationalizing why it is okay to be here," she said. She and her husband have come up with easy statistics to defend this position. Road accidents and even avalanches kill more people every year than the Kassams and mortars. But when it comes to danger, it's the weapons that bother their son, Netta. Wearing only shorts and running in a small circle as he spoke he said, "I'm afraid of mortars and Kassams." Netta's experience is a far cry from Aviv's own childhood on the kibbutz when he rode his bicycle safely along the border and drove with his family down to the sea in Gaza. Still, said Liat, "the grass here is green and it's quiet." Aviv added that their lives are still better on a kibbutz than in many other parts of the country, especially proportional to the people on the other side of the fence in Gaza that are suffering much more. A few homes away, Natalie Angelovitch, from Tel Aviv, who was doing her national service on the kibbutz said, "I don't think there is a chance that it will fall on me." But at the factory, where a candle still burns in the hallway for Rozenberg, experience has shown in the last week, that they are not invisible to the danger of falling rockets. Still, Elena, an immigrant from Russia living on Kibbutz Nir Oz, was one of the many workers who stayed in the factory and worked through the afternoon in spite of the attack. Elena, who didn't want her last name used, said the moment she heard the explosion she moved quickly into the hallway, but when the moment passed she went back to work. She was lucky to have been close to a protected area. Factory manager Yehuda Kaplun told the Post there are few protected areas in the factory, in part because the facility is so spread out that it's hard to keep all the workers within running distance of a space protected by concrete. Four additional small cement protected rooms which were promised by the Defense Ministry in the aftermath of the last attack had not yet arrived, said Kaplun. But the ministry has promised that the extra protected rooms would arrive by morning, he added. The mortar struck at 10:30 a.m. as Kaplun sat in his office. After the explosion he ran quickly outside where he saw one of his employees with a shrapnel wound in the hand. The mortar created pockmarked holes on the factory's back wall and a small adjacent hut. A small portion of the wall pealed away as a result. He is yet to calculate the damage, but the first attack last week already cost the factory upwards of NIS 700,000. He said he was certain that some people would seek work elsewhere, but that many of the workers would remain, particularly those who had been there for years and for whom Nirlat was like a second family. "We are here. We are not leaving," said Kaplun, who himself is from Kibbutz Nirim. But the security guard in front of the factory, who is from Ofakim was less sure that he would remain should their be a third strike against the factory. One nervous truck driver who delivered material to the factory in the afternoon, saw the guard sitting in his unprotected hut, and looked at him in disbelief. "I can't believe that you can just sit here all day," he said.