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August 11, 2014 4:29 pm

Gaza-Area Israelis: We Are ‘Not Sure We Can Raise Kids Here’

avatar by Dave Bender

Israeli farmland, a tank and watchtower alongside Gaza Photo: Dave Bender

Israeli farmland, a tank and watchtower alongside Gaza. Photo: Dave Bender.

Despite a second 72-hour cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that went into effect overnight, residents of normally placid and productive Jewish communities alongside the Islamist-held coastal enclave are wondering if it’s a good place to raise kids anymore, Israel’s NRG News reported Monday.

Interior Minister Gideon Saar, and ministry Knesset committee chief, Miri Regev on Monday met with frustrated and frightened residents and regional leaders at Kibbutz Nahal Oz, and at the rural Eshkol Regional Council to hear them out.

“The residents mostly spoke about their fears, and uncertainty over the future of the kibbutz – which had been on a demographic and economic roll,” before Operation Protective Edge, one resident said – even with the pervasive terror threat.

Thousands of Israeli who fled eastwards and north from the region for the last month to escape rocket barrages from Gaza are beginning to trickle back to their homes, schools and businesses.

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“We all understand that the situation is unstable,” one said, “and we’re not blaming anyone” for the initial decision to stand down the state of emergency on Friday, which Hamas immediately exploited to fire dozens of rockets and mortar shells at the pastoral civilian communities

“We’re all concerned that the war will have decimated all of our labors over the past few years – and therefore we requested major help from the government,” according to the interviewee.

To that end, the Israeli government on Sunday approved a financial aid package to rehabilitate the southern communities most affected by Hamas rocket fire during Operation Protective Edge, according to Israel’s Globes business daily.

The plan, formulated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, and Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom, will see the immediate transfer of $6.6 million in auxiliary funding to the Gaza vicinity communities, and an additional $3.9 million to the southern city of Sderot.

On-again — off-again Homefront Command emergency regulations about holding gatherings and staying close to shelters, and the prospect that Hamas has more – maybe many more – terror tunnels than the 32 the IDF was able to find and destroy has played havoc with communal village farmers who can’t work their cropland along the border.

Saar praised the kibbutz as being no less important to the state of Israel than Tel Aviv, and said that its residents were fulfilling a national goal by settling areas close to the border.

The residents, however, responded that, if it was so important and unique, then the government ought to be able to respond to their needs in kind.

“We can’t raise ourselves by our bootstraps, economically or socially, without the government,” one complained.

“We don’t have enough of a population, and families aren’t sure it’s a good place to remain and raise kids anymore,” he said, summarizing comments by others at the meeting.

The residents were buoyed by Saar’s expression of moral support, and promise to quickly bolster rocket-proof security roofs and walls for the childrens’ houses.

“This mission is the bedrock of Zionism,” Saar said.

“These people have chosen to live a pioneering way of life, and our goal as decision-makers is to see how we can best help them, because their development is of national interest,” Saar said.

“This isn’t one more political bull-session, but rather a working visit.”

As part of the multi-year plan, the full costs of which are estimated at $120.5 million, the Israeli government will fund the restoration and construction of public parks, sports centers, and public and cultural institutions in southern Israel, as well as invest in the fortification of existing daycare centers, public buildings and infrastructure.

“It is clear that beyond the need to restore peace and quiet in the south and all across Israel, we also have to make a special effort to nurture the south, as part of meeting our national challenges. We will do so is the shortest timeframe possible,” Netanyahu said Sunday.

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