Gaza border communities' residents: 'We've had enough'

Residents of southern Israel protest the security situation by pitching tents on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard.

Residents of southern Israel protest the security situation by pitching tents on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
Residents of southern Israel protest the security situation by pitching tents on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
Dozens of residents of communities surrounding the Gaza Strip set up tents on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard near HaBima Theater on Thursday in protest against the ongoing violence in the South.
“We understand that if the government won’t pay attention to us, we will continue to live like the past 18 years. We’ve had enough,” Naama – who declined to give her surname – from the community of Gvulot in the Eshkol Regional Council told The Jerusalem Post.
While rockets have been fired from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip for close to two decades, Naama told said the idea for the protest began in November after some 500 rockets were fired from the coastal enclave towards southern Israel.
“Nothing was done so we gathered people in the area. First, we began with 50-60 people, and grew from there,” she said. “We’ve had enough. When a missile falls in our area no one does anything. But when one missile hits in the center, all our fields are full of tanks and troops.”
“I hope that the signatures and the media coverage may pressure the government to not ignore us anymore,” she said.
“Some politicians think it’s been the quietest year in the area. But how is that possible? We’ve been described as a resilient front but we are exhausted. We want to be like all civilians. We want to live. It’s a basic human right to live,” Naama said.
According to statistics released by the IDF in December, more than 1,000 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards southern Israel in 2018. Hundreds more have been fired into Israel in the first five months of 2019.
While almost every year since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in a 2007 coup the number of rockets fired towards Israel was in triple digits, 2018 saw the most serious increase of violence between Israel and terrorist groups there since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
In 2007, Israel was hit by 2,433 projectiles, and in 2008 during Operation Cast Lead terror groups fired 3,557 projectiles. In 2012, during Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel was struck by 2,771 rockets, and in 2014, which coincided with Operation Protective Edge, Israel was bombarded by 4,897 projectiles. In 2015, a total of 71 rockets were launched from the coastal enclave by terrorist groups, 15 were launched in 2016, and 35 projectiles were fired towards Israel in 2017.
“We want a solution. We are so tired. It’s so sad that our kids are afraid of balloons and kites. We don’t buy them or bring them to birthdays anymore. It’s terrible. The one universal symbol of childhood and freedom, and we don’t have it anymore,” Naama said.
Adele Raemar from Nirim told the Post that most of the people on the organizing committee are women, the mothers who said “That’s it. That’s enough.”
“This protest got its 15 minutes of fame, but unfortunately we are in the spotlight every time there are rockets, and then it’s what’s on Gantz’s phone or some other controversy. It shouldn’t be an issue to capture the spotlight of the country in order to change something,” she said. “It has to be the number one priority for the country. If they don’t care for us, if they don’t stop the balloons from exploding over us, then it’s Tel Aviv next.”
Raemar moved to Nirim in 1975 from New York, and has raised her family there.
“Five of my seven grandchildren live within rocket range,” she said. “One of my daughters who lives in Nirim packs her bags every time there’s an escalation and goes to my other daughter in Ruhama. It’s too scary to stay with her kids. Every time something happens, it’s like a scratch on her soul.”
Raemar, who runs the Facebook page Life on the Border, stressed that despite the violence she would never leave the South.
“It’s my home. Why would I leave? I’ve lived there most of my adult life. I’m from the Bronx. I don’t get chased away easily.”
While the protest was apolitical, several politicians made their way to Rothschild Boulevard, including Blue and White Party chairman Benny Gantz, Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay, and Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai.
Naama, who spoke with Gantz, told the Post that while the elections won’t change people’s opinions, she believes that the former IDF Chief of Staff will be different than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I spoke to him, and looked him in the eye, and I believe him when he says that there has to be a military reaction as well as a diplomatic reaction followed by negotiations. Netanyahu said only force and it doesn’t work. It doesn’t solve anything.”
Raemer also said that Gantz would be different than Netanyahu, who has been prime minister for the past 10 years, and has overseen two military operations against Hamas in the Strip.
“Bibi’s heart may have been in the right place but he has so many things on his plate now that he can’t do it. He’s running now to wag the dog, to take the spotlight off of his troubles. I really don’t think he has our best interests at heart. Gantz came into politics not long ago, and he has the military experience. Give him a chance.”
Meirav from the community of Ein Hashlosha came to the protests with her 10-year-old daughter.
“My daughter was born into this situation. She’s dreaming about being safe, and not being afraid of balloons. Balloons are something very nice and happy, and I want her childhood to be like that. If it’s possible here in Tel Aviv, it’s possible in my home too.”
Israel unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and Meirav said she remembers going to Gaza’s beaches and markets with her family.
“I remember when we went to the beaches in Gaza. I hope one day my daughter can do the same. It can happen but we need brave leaders,” she said. “I know the people in Gaza want to live their lives like we do. My heart goes to them.”
Asked if she thought that Israel should embark on another military campaign to bring quiet to the South, she replied: “Another military operation by itself will only bring more death. Maybe it could be the start of something but after there must be a political process... Our leaders must do something and come with the same demands that we want to live peacefully and secure.”
“My only message is that I want security and to feel safe in my home. Just like people in Nazareth, Jerusalem or Eilat. I don’t want to think about terrorism everyday in my home,” she said. “We feel the night protests. Everything shakes. We don’t only hear it. We feel them. I hope some change will come. We need hope. We can’t live without it... We live in a war zone. Day in, day out.”