A non-stop barrage of rockets across southern Israel on Wednesday hit three homes in the town of Netiv Ha’asara, located next to the northern border of Gaza, the latest chapter in a long line of mortar damage in the town. In the past eight years, 63 rockets have hit within 200 meters of Moira Dror’s home, and three hit her house directly. When she saw on the news that the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel was on the brink of collapse on Tuesday afternoon, she knew exactly what to expect.
“Every time there’s a ceasefire, every time, we know what’s going to happen,” she said on Wednesday morning, in between running to her safe room. “We know we’re going to be bombed.”
Since Hamas launched rockets toward Beersheba on Tuesday afternoon, she said Netiv Ha’asara and the rest of the towns on the Gaza perimeter have experienced a nonstop barrage of rockets and mortars. “Since then it hasn’t stopped, all day and all night,” Dror said, noting that it surprised no one. “We know it’s going to happen. It’s all the same for 14 years now.”
For Dror and her neighbors, this summer they had a “glimmer of hope” that perhaps something could permanently change their security issue with Gaza. But then they heard Hamas’s fiery rhetoric on the news, and they lost that hope as well.
“When you hear Hamas talking and the way they talk, it’s like, how can you even sit down with them?” she asked. “They have no respect for Israel or for the lives of their own people.”
Netiv Ha’asara, a moshav or cooperative agricultural community, is located just 50 meters from the border with Gaza, and Dror’s home is one of the homes closest to the border. Her house has suffered a direct hit on three different occasions. Over the years, three people have been killed by mortars in Netiv Ha’asara, including a Thai worker on July 24.
One of the most difficult parts of the current situation for Dror is the disconnect she feels between residents of the south, who have dealt with rockets for the past 14 years, and the rest of the country, which has begun running to the bomb shelters only recently and on a less frequent basis. At a demonstration in Rabin Square last Thursday night where residents of the south demanded a permanent halt to the rockets, Dror said she was shocked and hurt at the response she encountered from people in the center of the country.
“People who spoke to me from Tel Aviv were like, ‘Oh you poor thing, living there,’” said Dror. “I wanted to be sick from the way people spoke to us. As if it’s my fault that I live where I live!”
‘I wanted to be sick from the way people spoke to us. As if it’s my fault that I live where I live!’
Dror, 60, made aliyah from Scotland in 1972. She lived in Neviot in Sinai, about 70 kilometers south of Eilat, until Israel withdrew from the peninsula in 1982.
“The government gave me this land, which is not in Gaza, when they took me out of Sinai,” she said. “It has nothing to do with occupied territory, this is Israel here. I’m only 14 kilometers from Ashkelon. In 45 minutes I’m in Tel Aviv.”
“People asked me if I was in Netiv Ha’asara during the situation. And I said, yes, we’ve been here most of the time. And they said to me ‘Kol hakavod!’ [That’s amazing! Good job!] Why kol hakavod? Would you say that to someone in New York after 9/11? That’s not the way you talk to someone.”
Over the course of a 20-minute conversation, red alert sirens warning of incoming rockets interrupted seven times. Dror’s credit card bill for July was three times its normal amount due to all the gas she’s spent driving north when she and her husband take a breather of a few days at their daughter’s apartment in northern Israel.
Dror struggled to put her daily life into a context understandable for people outside of the Gaza perimeter communities. “It’s as if you lived in New York, and from New Jersey it’s like they shot on you every day, if you can imagine being shot at every day for almost 14 years,” she said. “Sometimes, we have a few days of quiet. But you never ever know when that bomb will come.”
The worst is when well-meaning people ask her why she stays in Netiv Ha’Asara, given the proximity to Gaza and the frequent rockets.
“I have a beautiful house here; we built it with our own hands,” she said. “When people say, ‘why don’t you leave?’ it’s very bad taste.”
Even if she wanted to leave, Dror noted, they’d be stuck: no one wants to buy a house now in Netiv Ha’asara, and they would need to sell their home in order to move anywhere.
“Although, if someone came to me and gave me a hundred million dollars,” she laughed, “I’d probably go retire and live in Sedona, Arizona.”
In the meantime, however, she and her family are trying to get through the current conflict, stealing sleep in between the sirens, pleading for a permanent solution with the government and the rest of the country, and struggling to connect with people who have no idea what their daily life is like. On Wednesday, she estimates she fled for her safe room at least 20 times, hearing boom after boom.
“I went into a coffee shop on Thursday [after the demonstration in Tel Aviv], and they didn’t even know where Netiv Ha’asraa was and they didn’t know there was a demonstration,” said Dror.
“This is such a terrible feeling. Why does nobody realize what it’s like?”