'A lot of my friends were killed. I am a refugee now'

Near the Gaza border, Israeli sculptor turns Hamas ‘swords into plowshares’

After surviving the terrorist massacre at his moshav on Oct. 7, Israeli blacksmith Yaron Bob has brought his renowned pro-peace Rockets into Roses project to US communities

Reporter at The Times of Israel

  • Israeli sculptor Yaron Bob (Courtesy)
    Israeli sculptor Yaron Bob (Courtesy)
  • One of Yaron Bob's more elaborate sculptures (Courtesy)
    One of Yaron Bob's more elaborate sculptures (Courtesy)
  • Israeli sculptor Yaron Bob (Courtesy)
    Israeli sculptor Yaron Bob (Courtesy)

MERRICK, New York — The Israeli blacksmith known for turning Hamas rockets into roses does not travel lightly.

When Yaron Bob took to the stage at Long Island’s Merrick Jewish Center, a rusted Palestinian projectile transformed into a patch of roses accompanied him. In the adjacent social hall, samples of his best-selling sculptures filled several tables. His menorah made of projectiles was featured at the White House.

Just prior to the October 7 Hamas massacre, dozens of congregants visited Bob in his studio adjacent to Gaza. In mid-November, some of them were among 300 people who came to hear Bob’s testimony on surviving the onslaught at his moshav, Yated.

“It’s really hard to express what happened to us on October 7,” said Bob. “It will be a mark that will last on us for generations. It will be a milestone for how we organize our daily lives as Israel tries to rebuild the area,” he told the congregation.

“A lot of my friends were killed,” said Bob. He survived after hiding in a safe room for 33 hours with no electricity or outside communication.

During the unprecedented day of surprise Hamas massacres adjacent to Gaza, 1,200 Israelis were murdered and 240 taken hostage.

Israeli artist Yaron Bob and one of his sculptures made of Palestinian projectiles at Merrick Jewish Center, New York, Nov. 20, 2023 (Matt Lebovic/The Times of Israel)

“I am a refugee now,” Bob added, saying he expects to return to Yated in February.

Mentioning that his moshav is near Re’im — site of the Supernova outdoor rave that saw some 350 murdered — Bob said residents of that kibbutz are not expected to return home for a full year.

“They are all going to be living in Eilat before they can move back,” said Bob, who also spent time in Eilat before coming to the US for a brief tour of synagogues and Jewish community centers on Long Island.

Two weeks prior, Bob made a brief visit to his house in Yated to gather supplies and materials for the tour. The moshav was a ghost of itself, he said, with burned-out shells of homes and other evidence of what Hamas terrorists perpetrated there.

During Bob’s brief visit back to Yated, rockets landed in the moshav, he said, causing significant damage.

One of Yaron Bob’s more elaborate sculptures (Courtesy)

“I have pictures of the fires there,” said Bob. “The Iron Dome [batteries] had left [the area] to protect the north,” said Bob.

Yated is located one mile from each Gaza and Egypt, said Bob, adding he moved to the region to raise children in a “quiet” part of the country.

“We enjoy the best of both worlds, infiltration from Egypt and rockets from Gaza,” said Bob, who was a “computer IT guy” before founding “Rockets into Roses.”

Israeli sculptor Yaron Bob (Courtesy)

For many years, Bob has sourced metal from rockets that land in or near Sderot, the largest Israeli city close to Gaza. In Sderot, at least one police station created a mini-museum for journalists and visitors featuring the Hamas projectiles, some 34,000 of which have exploded inside Israel since 2001.

At Merrick Jewish Center, more than a handful of people who waited to view his work after the talk were disappointed to learn that tables in the social hall were set with non-purchasable samples.

‘It was laughing at me’

“There are seven seconds to run for a shelter where I live,” said Bob, who has survived two rocket attacks near Yated.

In one of the attacks, Bob huddled with his son under a fortified bus stop, he said. Afterward, Bob experienced what clinicians would call PTSD, having been just 10 feet away from a rocket when it exploded.

Days after surviving that attack, Bob’s restlessness was channeled into something else.

“In my warehouse, I saw one of the rockets fired in from Gaza,” said Bob. “It was laughing at me. I wanted to take away its power. I started to cut it,” he said.

As a rule, Bob takes a projectile and cuts it into “cylinders,” as if cutting up a sausage. Inside many projectiles, Bob locates metal cores that bear a striking resemblance to roses.

Yaron Bob’s signature sculpture (Courtesy)

Many rockets crash into “accordions” upon impact, explained Bob, who has always donated profits from “Rockets into Roses” to help victims of terror.

“I wanted to change the war into something that represents beauty and prosperity,” said Bob.

He found his way of “turning swords into plowshares,” using Palestinian terror rockets, a hammer, anvil, and furnace, all in his studio close next to Gaza.

Today, Bob’s products include Shabbat candles and other Judaica, as well as jewelry. His best-seller and signature item is a map of Israel out of which a rose rises, which sells for $275 on some online boutiques.

Priced much lower at $29, necklace charms in honor of Sderot feature a map of Israel with a small blue stone placed for Sderot, alongside the Hebrew words, “The People of Israel Live.”

At the end of his presentation, Bob explained that people regularly asked him to make mezuzah cases from the projectiles. However, Bob did not believe that Palestinian terror rockets matched the holiness assigned to cases protecting the prayers found on the mezuzah scroll, he said.

After Israel deployed Iron Dome, however, Bob realized he had a new source of metal: life-saving projectiles fired by the IDF to shoot down incoming terror rockets, out of which Bob now makes mezuzah cases.

For years, military and police personnel across Israel have passed on their “finds” to Bob, who has taken journalists to view a trove of missiles labeled with dates and where each projectile exploded: Ashdod, Tel Aviv, Beersheba, etc.

In a TV interview after the October 7 massacres, Bob spoke about living in Eilat with other refugees from Gaza envelope communities.

“I’m afraid,” said Bob. “I cry when I meet my friends. When I see neighbors now, I don’t say hello or good morning. I am saying, I am glad that you are alive. It’s as simple as that. This is our greeting now and it’s a powerful thing to say.”

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