Moshav Zar'it heads back to the bomb shelters

"We've gone backwards to the days when we raised our children under bombardments."

bomb shelter 88 (photo credit: )
bomb shelter 88
(photo credit: )
When Shula, a longtime Zar'it resident, heard about Wednesday morning's Hizbullah attack on IDF troops just outside of her moshav, she continued her drive to the small community. Attacks like Wednesday's became routine years ago for the isolated Western Galilee moshav, whose northernmost orchards abut the Lebanese border, and whose farmers are watched every day by Hizbullah terrorists at forward posts located less than 500 meters from the security fence. Since the attack Wednesday morning, in which eight soldiers were killed and two were kidnapped, Shula and her five children spent night and day inside the stifling air of the moshav's bomb shelter. "We've gone backwards to the days when we raised our children under bombardments. All of the bad memories are returning," says Shula, speaking to The Jerusalem Post during a brief respite from her day in the shelter. She returned to her house for a few minutes in the early evening in order to bring back food and drink for the children in the shelter. Shula tiredly recounts the day's routine: "There is nothing to do. You can't leave. You're helpless, waiting to see what will be. You jump back home to bring food and drink for the children, and then hurry back." She says that in previous years, during periods of unrest, the family had kept activities and games ready in the bomb shelter, to entertain bored children. Today, she said, the children didn't have a chance to prepare beforehand, and simply spent the day talking and playing improvised games in the small room. "We've just become accustomed to the quiet," Shula says, explaining the lack of preparation. "We've enjoyed the quiet." Shula and her husband were among the first 15 families to move to the small and isolated moshav, located 700 meters above sea level on the high chalky spine of the Western Galilee, in 1967. The first families, all young people in their twenties and their children, withstood initial hardship - no electricity or even roads reached their community in the early days. The small agricultural community was dealt a heavy blow during the agricultural crisis that plagued Israel in the late eighties. Currently, fewer than 100 families live on the moshav which is located closer to Beirut than to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Some residents work outside of the community while others tend their orchards, raise chickens, goats and cattle, and grow grapes for the increasingly well-known Zar'it wines. It was in one of the northern orchards that the father of a Zar'it family was wounded by Hizbullah fire on Wednesday as he tended his fruit trees. A few families, such as Shula's, try to run guest houses, but unlike other northern communities, the security situation in a moshav better known as the locus for Hizbullah attacks than for its pastoral views seems to keep most tourists away. Although her guest house's website advertises large Jacuzzis and home theater technology, Shula says that business is not great, and that Wednesday's events have driven it further down. "It'll make life more difficult," she says, sighing. "Right now, there's nothing, nobody's calling to make reservations." But the seasoned Zar'it resident is quick to say that the business's success is far from her greatest concern. "What's really important is that nobody else is hurt," Shula says. "And that our soldiers are safe and return home quickly. In the end, everything will be okay." The security situation along the part of the Lebanese border that runs just north of the moshav's orchards has been on-and-off. As early as 1977, Israel issued complaints to the United Nations concerning terrorist attacks from Lebanon targeting the community. In the years following the 2000 IDF pullout from southern Lebanon, Hizbullah repeatedly shelled the area around the moshav with Katyusha rockets. In July 2004, First Sergeant Avishai Korisky and Sergeant Itai Iluz were killed by sniper fire aimed at the nearby Nurit post while the soldiers were fixing an antenna. The Hizbullah position from which the snipers fired was located only some 250 meters away from the IDF post, on the Lebanese side of the border. Shula is determined, though, to make the best of the situation. If the guest rooms don't work, she says, the family can make do with their chicken coops. "We just hope that people throughout the world will keep supporting Israel and our soldiers. It's uplifting in situations like these to know that we're not standing alone," she says before hurrying back down to spend the night in the shelter.