The Human Spirit: Rosie’s rockets

Despite the hundreds of explosions on the kibbutz that followed, Rosie’s son never forgot the frst boom

A POOCH takes shelter in a washing machine during a rocket attack (photo credit: Courtesy)
A POOCH takes shelter in a washing machine during a rocket attack
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Here’s Rosie’s Facebook post from May 30: "Just want to let everybody out there to know I can’t sleep! All of Otef Aza [the Gaza periphery] is under attack. In all 17 years of being attacked, we have never had a night like this."
That night 100 “projectiles” – meaning rockets and mortars – were fired at Israeli targets. Sirens warning Israelis of strikes were triggered at least 166 times.
I can’t reveal exactly where Rosie lives or her last name, because her kibbutz is frequently targeted. Why give succor and intel to the enemy? “Otef Aza” means the part of Israel that hugs the Gaza Strip.
“I’m not on the first line,” she says.
That’s because she lives 3.5 km. away, as the kite flies.
And the kites do fly. Just last week, a kite with an explosive device landed in the kibbutz schoolyard.
“The children, who were smart enough not to go near it, reported it,” says Rosie.
That’s why you may not have heard of it. A sapper was summoned to defuse the charges. The kibbutz members received a friendly WhatsApp to remind their children never to touch kites or balloons.
Rosie, an artist, and her husband, Ron, an economist, made aliya from California, after graduating from UCLA and graduate school at the University of Chicago. They’re both children of Holocaust survivors, Rosie’s late father the sole survivor of a family of 45. Moving to Israel was always their dream. They settled in Jerusalem and opened a desktop publishing business, using Apple technology so new that it took a while to get the space bar to work.
They often exchanged visits with fellow immigrants who’d moved to a kibbutz.
On one visit Ron said he preferred the bucolic setting and serene kibbutz life to the city. They were accepted for membership, and 25 years ago moved their business and their five sons south. Their sixth son was born there.
The Jerusalem neighborhood of Baka, where they’d lived, experienced a spate of fatal stabbings by terrorists in 1990 while the children were waiting for their school bus, so they’d been exposed to terrorism.
But Rosie vividly remembers the first boom on the kibbutz. She was riding an adult tricycle with her kindergartner on a scooter.
“My son just froze,” she said. “We continued to his nursery school, where all the kids were frozen in fear.”
Despite the hundreds of explosions on the kibbutz that followed, that son never forgot the first boom. Many years later, when he was a tank gunner in the IDF, he had to confront a terrorist with an RPG.
He called his parents afterward to say that he had finally had a “corrective emotional experience” for the helplessness he’d felt as a little boy.
One son, a musician, can’t control a trembling in his arm when he is performing and the sirens go off. Another son tells her about nightmares where Nazis and Gazans blend into a single enemy from whom he has to defend the kibbutz.
Rosie, 65, spends part of her day working with older persons on the kibbutz who publish fabric children’s books. She has a rich repertoire of rocket stories. There was the time, for instance, when a neighbor’s dog was so frightened he jumped into the clothes drier. Like many of the residents, the dog was prescribed what Rosie calls “happy pills,” tranquilizers for chronic anxiety.
Extinguished kites decorate the avocado orchards and rolling fields of carrot tops.
“Beepers don’t work where we are, but the app on our smartphones sounds the alarms. We used to be warned when rockets fell anywhere in the region, but now the alarms are more sophisticated and specific for our kibbutz,” she says.
The boys have grown up. Now Rosie’s mom, Janine, lives with them in their kibbutz bungalow. Born in Berlin, she remembers the trauma of Kristallnacht.
During World War II, she spent two years in hiding and the rest in concentration camps. Her future husband, a former Satmar Hassid who had served in the Hungarian army and survived two POW camps, saw her walking down the street in France after the war and predicted that he would marry her. They had no common language and invited a friend to chaperon and interpret. Rosie was born in Paris. Their family journey took them first to Kentucky, where they owned a kosher butcher shop, and then started over again in Los Angeles, so Rosie, their only child, could grow up in a more religiously observant community.
Rosie and Ron have moved their bedroom into the reinforced chamber added to their home in recent years. When the rockets fall at night, they have to make a quick decision about whether to wake up Grandma Janine. “There have been lots of injuries of older people on their way to safe rooms,” Rosie says.
On May 30, the rockets fell all day. Grandma Janine, who joined them in the safe room, made up a ditty about the rockets falling: “Bitty boom, bitty boom, here we go again,” determined to cheer up herself and family as they waited out the rocket fire.
Rosie isn’t angry at the government. “We know the government and the IDF are doing their best, and that this is hard. There aren’t always solutions.”
They aren’t leaving.
“Why should we?” she says. “I look out at my garden and know this is the most beautiful place in the world.”
She’s planted geraniums, passion flowers and bougainvillea.
The scent of jasmine dominates. Her oldest granddaughter (at last a girl!) has asked Grandma if she can get married when she grows up. She’s seven.
“I assure her that she can,” says Rosie. “By then, the garden will be even more beautiful. I wake up every day and thank God for letting me live in Israel and in this Garden of Eden. Yes, it’s the Garden of Eden to me.”
The writer is the Israel director of public relations at Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. Her latest book is A Daughter of Many Mothers.