Like Shay Koplovich‘s experience with his and several other visiting families below, wife Miri and I also spent a wonderful, relaxing Shabbat at Kibbutz Alumim, alongside Gaza. His measured and heartfelt words echo my thoughts and feelings almost exactly (any errors in the text are mine, as is the translation).
We did not think for a moment to cancel. Not because of us – because of them. Because of those who live where they live happen to be our family, because if we’d have canceled, then we’d have lost. All of us.
‘We arrived at this charming area between orchards and fields. I really wanted to add the word ‘green’ after orchards and fields but the bitter truth is that there is a lot of black there.
‘When we got out of the car and took a deep breath it was not the smell of flowers or fruit, it was the smell of burning in the air.
‘The same fire in the fields that is lit every day by death kites for several months, the same fire that has not been heard for some time in the media for some reason. Perhaps because it is boring, perhaps because it is routine, perhaps because someone gave an order to ‘lower the flames’ but only in the headlines, not in the field.
One of the most prominent things in the Gaza vicinity is defensive. Large ugly concrete cubes that decorate every bus station and every path in the kibbutz.
‘So slap some paint on them and draw really nicely flowers, but that’s not it. It doesn’t ‘elevate’ them artistically, nor does it make them part of the landscape.
‘When we arrived we received a safety briefing. Yes, it’s an integral part of a Shabbat Bar Mitzvah, who’d dare miss out?
‘Quick show of hands: Which one of us came to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah and – wallah – the first thing he gets is an explanation about blast shielding, protected areas, alarms, ‘color red’ sirens, 7 and 15 seconds fleeing to safety, and teeth-rattling explosions.
‘This is our life,’ they told us, simply.
‘And on Saturday, when we were on a hike, we saw the collection of rocket duds, the nearby Iron Dome battery, and the incendiary kites that were seized.
‘The tail of one of the kites is entirely made up of paper strips made out of Arabic-language booklets. Perhaps this is ‘the whole Torah on one foot,’ as the saying goes.
‘It’s educational, and it’s a reward – and a snapshot.
‘They tell you that the sound of Iron Dome is terrifying. Shattering. Like an airplane roaring overhead, but at ceiling – height. They tell you that Iron Dome is activated before the ‘Color Red Alert siren. And, they tell you there are only a few seconds in between.
‘In short, you start out your visit examining your biggest panic attack issues, and the pace only picks up from there.
‘All I thought of on Saturday were the kids. Not mine – theirs. How can one comprehend that a kindergartener has 7 seconds to reach a ‘protected space?’ Really, it’s insane to call this a routine life.
‘I asked on Saturday, ‘Do you get used to it?’ And the answer I got was unequivocal:
In a normal world children get used to cornflakes without milk, if they run out. You get used to seeing Dora when Diego really wants you, because that’s life. You get used to pita smeared with local ‘Shachar’ chocolate spread – even when you really feel like having ‘Nutella.’
‘They’ve got themselves some fucking tough habits here in the Gaza vicinity.
‘So until the higher-ups find a solution,’ do something’ – or just plain ‘grow a pair,’ you’re invited to go and do something. Go visit the Gaza Perimeter residents, yourselves.
‘Go visit, send a hug, send candy packages, donate fire extinguishers, invite the families to have a ‘fun day’ by you, give them some peace, some life. ‘It’s not a matter of right or left.
‘Dedicated with great love to our family and friends.'”