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March 28, 2019 4:36 pm

Mothers From Southern Israel Tell Stories of Life Under Rocket Fire

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Streaks of light are pictured as rockets are launched from the northern Gaza Strip toward Israel, as seen from Sderot, Aug. 8, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry released a video on Thursday showing Israeli mothers who live near the border with the Gaza Strip describing what it is like to live under constant Hamas rocket fire, its traumatizing effects, and even the sympathy they have developed for Palestinian mothers in Gaza.

Noa Berkeley of the border town of Sderot said, “My kids will never go alone, anywhere in the house, all the time. We plan out steps from a bomb shelter to a bomb shelter. We always leave a crack open in the window so we can hear the sirens from outside, because if you put on music, and if you put on air conditioning, then sometimes you won’t hear the sirens.”

When there is a warning siren, she describes the response as “very high adrenaline, the heart beats, the body shakes.”

Nonetheless, she did not lack sympathy for the Palestinians on the other side of the border, saying, “Many of the people in Gaza are captive by the Hamas terror organization as much as we are. I am a strong believer in peace and I am praying for it.”

Maayan Hendler of Kibbutz Kissufim described her son’s reaction to the sirens, saying, “He looks at me with eyes that say, ‘Mom, what do we do now, what…?’ Every small sound, they’re asking, ‘Mom, what was that? Mom, what was that?’”

“To explain to a child that it’s healthy to be scared, and good to be scared, just so that he knows how to deal with his body, never in my life did I think I would have to do that,” she added.

When rockets are incoming, “the body jumps into the survival mode,” she recounted.

Mechi Fendel of Sderot described a similar feeling, saying, “You stop the car, and you don’t know which baby to unplug first, to unbuckle first, and grab two and just run with the kids, and just find the closest shelter. It could be a bus stop. It could be the house. It could be just running into a neighbor’s house, and we’ve done it before. You know, you knock and you push the door open, and you run in.”

She also talked about how she reassured her children

“In our protected room, we always have chocolate,” she said. So the first thing we do when everyone comes in, we count heads, make sure everyone is there, and then I hand out chocolate. After that, we also say psalms, pray to God that no one gets hurt.”

Tal Pichovich of Kibbutz Dorot recalled her initial experience with rocket attacks, saying, “The kids were two months, I think, and that was the first alarm. And I was alone in the house with them. We only have 15 seconds to hide. So I took one bed, and just took it to the hallway, which is the safest place in the house, which is bulls**t, it’s not really safe. And I didn’t have enough time, so I ran to the other one and covered him with my body, and I felt so stupid.”

“It’s not something that kids should experience in their daily life,” she stated. She included Palestinian children in this, saying such things should not happen “not here, not there. I want them to be able to live their life peacefully, and I hope that’s what is going to happen.”

Oshri Amir of Sderot, the only man to appear in the clip, described the panicked reaction of residents to the alert sirens.

“There are a lot of people in Sderot,” he says, “and a lot of children especially, when the siren sounds, you see half of them immediately wet their pants, this is something you really see. Stand in a grocery store during a siren and you will see it. It starts with the shaking, and the anxiety that the body physically shows.”

Yehudit ben Chair, also of Sderot, stated simply, “We are talking about post-traumatic syndrome.”

Another Sderot resident, Orna Cohen, said, “To be in constant tension and think, ‘Maybe there’s going to be an attack,’ it’s so damaging. It’s damaging to the children and to their daily lives and we take a big toll for that.”

Of mothers with children in Gaza, Cohen said, “We probably have a lot more in common than it looks like, because I’m sure she really cares about her kids and her grandkids.”

Karen Halperin of Kibbutz Bror Hayil has similar feelings, saying, “When I am running to the bomb shelter with my kids in the middle of the night, I am really thinking about the same mother in Gaza, on the other side of the fence, that her child is also scared at night.”

“We are trying to raise a generation that won’t hate,” she said. “But you can’t love someone who is hurting you.”

View the full video below:

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