“Don’t you understand they are trying to kill us?”
I’m a mom from 6 kids.
Since I do not have any official part in our Kibbutz – I am writing as a mother of six children being raised in Sa’ad, and as a teacher in Sha’ar Hanegev High School that serves students from the kibbutzim in our area. For us the war started 14 years ago, when the first rockets began falling around us, so most …
of the children learning in school now were born into this atmosphere or were very young, and do not remember times when there was no threat on our lives.
About four years ago the state provided a shelter in every house in Sa’ad, which gave us a much safer feeling. Before that we used to lie on the ground with our children and pray.
Learning from the past,I decided that this time we would wait as long as we could before leaving our home, because the war might take longer than we expected. It did! My son, 14 years old, begged for us to leave: “Don’t you understand they are trying to kill us?”. So we left – three of my children and myself. My husband and our son, 16 years old, decided to stay and work so that other kibbutz members could leave with their families or go to the army (millu’im).
The days before we left were very stressful: in Sa’ad several army units got organized to stay, the roads around us were filled with trucks and tanks and there was dust everywhere. In the central buildings, where there are big windows, strong walls were put in that could protect us from the danger of broken glass shattering everywhere. We were ordered to stay 15 seconds from a shelter – these are orders we are used to – so still we did not feel we had to leave. When there aren’t sirens, Sa’ad is a very quiet place [3 km from the border], so it took some time to realize we were in a war.
Our children went to their activities in “Bait Kolel” knowing they needed to stay close to the shelter, and we tried to go on with our lives.
Then the sirens sounded more and more frequently, the swimming pool was too dangerous to use, children were not allowed to walk around alone, and the kibbutz became more a military base than our home. My children saw some of their friends leave, and we felt it was becoming too dangerous to stay. The noise became stronger and the dust thicker; we couldn’t put on the air-conditioning and pretend we couldn’t hear the bombing around us (usually most of the noise was made by IDF bombers and helicopters watching the Gaza Strip).
For the first time, the army asked us to leave Sa’ad. People were looking for places to stay, not knowing how long they would have to stay away from their home. We left Sa’ad for my parents’ house (they were on vacation, so we had the whole house to ourselves). When we arrived I found my youngest daughter Cana trying to figure out where the shelter was, and how we were supposed to get all our beds inside. We had promised her that it would be safer there, so we put a mattress on the floor and then she discovered there was no door that we could shut. I tried my best to explain that we were far from the war, and that there was no danger here. I don’t think she believed me. That same night there was a siren in Modi’in! We aren’t used to that kind of siren, that wailing tone. Ours is much nicer; it is a woman’s voice calmly saying “tzeva adom” – code red.
The war started a few days after the summer vacation began. We started a whatsapp group of our class. The students were happy to share what they were doing. At first, one of them got invited to speak on T.V. after a letter she had written to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. She gave a great show, and we were all very excited to watch her. She is from Sderot, and decided with two friends of hers to let him know how tired we were from the constant rockets falling all the time.
A few days later the IDF discovered a tunnel close to Nir’am. [800 m from the border]Again one of our students, who had stayed with her family at home, was on T.V. She was also very impressive, and we were again all glued to the T.V. and whatsapp. This gave us a feeling that we were important and special.
A few days later another tunnel was discovered in Nativ Ha’asara. Four of my students live there. This was the largest tunnel that was found. Most of the members of the Moshav had left already. One of our students went abroad on vacation. Two of the students are swimmers. They couldn’t swim in our pool anymore, so they left for “Wingate Institute”, and to other places they could continue their swimming practice. One of them wrote in our group that the sirens were going along with them everywhere they went. The fourth student had remained at home. Her parents own a grocery store in the Moshav. She was very scared, sitting all day in the shelter, hearing the war outside (Nativ Ha’asara is located 100 meters from the border). After a few days she left for her grandparents in Sderot (6 km from the border) to stay with them in their shelter. After some time even her parents left and took the whole family to Spain (not including her brother who was in the army).
The teachers and most of our students were on “whatsapp” trying to figure out where everyone was, what they were doing and if there was anyone who needed help. People were scattered all over the country and the world. We made phone calls to those who didn’t show up in our group, and so we kept in touch all summer. As a mother I got phone-calls from my children’s teachers too…
The tunnels were a new threat. And then there was also the new experience of officials saying it was safe to go home, but then finding out that even if you followed the rules, you still might not be safe. Daniel Trigerman was killed in his home with his parents near him. Two members of Kibbutz Nirim were killed trying to fix the electricity, doing their job, without knowing there would be a ceasefire in an hour. For the first days back at home we had a lot of cleaning, organizing and coming back to do. While we hadn’t been home, the members of our family that had remained had done laundry for many soldiers, cooked and baked for them and had even arranged some happy events at our home. Now we had to come back to our normal lives.
At the beginning of the academic year we found it hard to be back at school. I hadn’t done any preparation for the new school year, except during the first week of the vacation. We were all exhausted before we even began. The feeling that something might fall from above or crawl from underground had been so stressful. I felt that we needed time to build trust with our land again, and also to heal ourselves. And so we went to the fields where the tanks had been stationed during the war. The soil was like powder. We ran on it and played. The powder was as high as our knees and even higher for the children. We took some powder back with us to build some toys and statues.
We have started our school year. So far it certainly isn’t a regular year, but maybe we as teachers have learned to be able to listen in a new and different way to what our students now say. Just this week I was teaching my 7th graders about new beginnings. I wrote on the board about how new beginnings can make us sort out and clarify our goals in life. I asked the students if they could give examples. The first one spoke about how when you attend a new school, you can decide who your friends will be, and how you want to study. Another one spoke about a New Year as a time to think of a better way to lead your life. The third said that it is like the war – families who had lost their beloved ones would have to figure out how to go on; people who had left their homes would have to start a new life and so on…
In three days it will be the Jewish New Year “Rosh Hashanah”. Some of my friends and students are going abroad. Usually my parents stay with us during the holidays. This year I think it is not safe to invite anyone to stay here, so we are not inviting them. We still don’t know what is going to happen. We have decided to remain in Sa’ad for the holiday, since we are such a big family. If it will be unbearable then we will leave, even during the holiday itself.
If there will be a new agreement between Israel and the Palestinians it will be easier for us – there will be hope. If there isn’t, then we will have to think of another way to find hope.
September 21, 2014