Tales of Terror: Israelis Share Their Stories on Gaza Rockets

November 19, 2012 10:46 pm 0 comments

An Israeli woman stands outside a damaged house hit by a rocked fired from the Gaza Strip that hit a house near the Israel-Gaza border, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. Photo: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90.

The day that longtime Sderot resident Adi Kaslasy, 25, was driving home in her car as rockets started falling around her, a cease-fire was supposed to be in effect. It was one of those frequent cease-fires between the Israeli government and Hamas-ruled Gaza that never truly made the rockets stop coming.

Driving through huge balls of fire hitting the road less than two meters away from her on her left and on her right, it was like she was engaging in an action-movie stunt. But this was reality. Kaslasy lay down on the ground and covered her face, stopped at street shelters (miguniyot) on the way when she could, then drove on every time there was a break in the fire. It took her an hour to get to her house about two kilometers away.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the current conflict between Israel and Gaza began back on Saturday, Nov. 10, when an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza struck an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) jeep and wounded four Israeli soldiers. Hamas followed that attack by firing 120 rockets at Israel from Nov. 10-14, prompting the IDF to kill Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’s military wing. This marked the start of the IDF’s “Pillar of Defense” air offensive. Since then about 700 rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel, and three Israelis were killed despite the deployment of the Iron Dome missile defense system to intercept the rockets. According to Reuters, at least 16 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza.

Gaza rockets killed a total of 23 Israelis between January 2004 and November 2012, according to the ministry of foreign affairs. This year, March, June and October saw a major upsurge in rockets from Gaza, with more than 100 launches in each of those months, according to data from the Jewish Virtual Library. Even during relatively quiet times, the Israeli South gets hit by at least 1-2 rockets a week–usually many more. Men, women and children have 15 seconds to get to a safe house before the next rocket hits. Often that is not long enough.

Once as a teenager, Kaslasy was traveling to Dimona in the Negev when she met a good friend on the way. A rocket killed the friend two hours after this meeting. “In Sderot you never know which day will really be your last… It’s like Russian roulette,” she told JNS.org.

The Eshkol Regional Council—a collection of 32 villages, kibbutzim and small communities that runs along 40 kilometers, or nearly two-thirds, of the Israel-Gaza border—sees 40-60 percent of the rockets that fall inside Israeli territory, said Ronit Minaker, the council’s official speaker. There is also the danger of sniper shootings and terrorist infiltration attempts, which shut the villages down when they occur—residents get a notice not to leave their homes.

The Israeli government paid for the construction of safe rooms inside most homes in the Eshkol region, but “some villages don’t have shelters, so (people) have to run to hallways or some windowless space,” Minaker told JNS.org.

“If they’re outside, they have to lie flat on the ground or go into a nearby building, though sometimes there isn’t one,” she said. About 40 percent of the Eshkol population has left the area during the most recent rocket attacks. Of those that remain, many experience posttraumatic stress symptoms, not only adults but also children who are wetting the bed again at the age of nine or 10.

Adele Raemer is a Kibbutz Nirim resident who founded a Facebook group, Life on the Border with Gaza, which has more than 1,300 members and publicizes what residents are experiencing in Israel’s south. Kibbutz Nirim, about two kilometers from the Gaza border, gets hit by the short-range mortars, which are much deadlier than the Qassam rockets. They don’t have an early warning system for these, so the mortars “just land and the only way you know about them is when you hear the explosion,” Raemer told JNS.org. During this latest escalation, she has been sleeping in a safe room. On Saturday she sought shelter about 10 times during the day.

The 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza made the situation for southern Israelis much worse. “The feeling is that instead of building a life over there (Gaza), they made the area into a place for shooting rockets,” Minaker said. In recent years there were several escalations that led to a barrage of rockets. Many residents are angered that Israel is willing to accept massive fire daily, sometimes dozens of rockets a day, on its own citizens. Many of those residents welcome Operation Pillar of Defense.

But even if the current operation winds down and the launching of the rockets subsides for a few months or a year, “in the end it will happen again,” so the conflict has to be ended through a political agreement, Minaker said. “We as citizens know that citizens on both sides ultimately just want to live a normal life, take their children to kindergarten, go to work and stroll freely through their gardens,” she said.

In the latest barrages, several rockets also fell near the central city of Tel Aviv and the capital of Jerusalem. The Israeli government is considering a potential ground offensive into Gaza, mobilizing up to 75,000 reserve soldiers in preparation. “Tel Aviv itself is very much a bubble. When rockets hit Sderot, it’s very much a reaction like ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ Tel Aviv hasn’t had [an air raid] siren in over 20 years, so it was very unexpected for us,” 18-year-old Tel Aviv University student Ilana Sivachenko told JNS.org.

In fact, many Israelis in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv had no clue where to go when the siren went off, or how long they had to get to the shelters. When the first alarm sounded in Tel Aviv, Sivachenko was walking home with her groceries. University shelters were sealed shut, so she ran to the nearest stairwell. So did Jonathan Nevo, a 26-year-old student of Middle East and international relations in Jerusalem, since his building didn’t even have a safe room. Although this is the first time a rocket alarm sounded in Jerusalem, “the area is very connected to everything that’s happening because during the Intifada a few years ago there were a lot of suicide bombings here,” he told JNS.org.

Twenty-four-year-old Ilana Liberman, a student at Hebrew University, was studying with her roommate when they heard the alarm and then the explosion from the rocket. “We don’t know exactly where it fell but there were booms. From what I understand they didn’t open the safe rooms here, but we looked for a place to hide away from windows, so we went to the last building floor and waited from instructions from the Home Front Command to know when we could leave,” she told JNS.org. A friend of hers and his girlfriend continued sitting on their porch as the alarm sounded.

“People who never experienced this before don’t know how to react,” Liberman said.

In Giv’atayim, a town east of Tel Aviv, 26-year-old graphic designer Zohar Louk hid in a safe room of a random building during the rocket alarm. Her 7-year-old sister became hysterical from the alarm since it sounded while she was at a playground without any place to hide. “We don’t understand how the residents of the South deal with this every day,” Louk told JNS.org. She hopes that the Palestinians expel Hamas and recognize it as a terror organization. She doesn’t believe in negotiating with an organization whose sole purpose is the destruction of her country.

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians isn’t a simple, symmetric, tit-for-tat conflict, Kaslasy said. Though the news frequently presents Israel’s side of the conflict as “a rocket hit Sderot, no injured people,” such an event is very painful for the people of Sderot, and many around the world underestimate how tough this is for Israel, according to Kaslasy.

“I have a friend who, when he was 23 years old, lost most of his legs. Another neighbor lost his eyesight,” Kaslasy said.

Kaslasy recently moved to Berlin, Germany, but her family still lives in southern Israel. She remembers vividly “as a kid, looking up at the sky and thinking, ‘Oh God please, don’t let me die.’” In another incident, she couldn’t get to a safe room in time, so she hid under a tree to escape as the siren sounded.

“At the last minute I started laughing because I looked at this tree… and I thought, ‘This is going to protect me?’” Kaslasy said. She started running and felt herself fly in the air, and the rocket hit the tree. The shock was so severe that she didn’t notice her bruises, simply got up, and started walking like nothing happened, shivering. In another case, she saw a rocket hit people.

“In that moment you start screaming, and you don’t realize that you’re screaming,” she said.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the moral of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry has [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.