The Reijnen family arrived in Israel from the Netherlands shortly after the 2014 Gaza war, and chose to live in one of the villages in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, adjacent to the Gaza Strip.
On Saturday, the family — parents Raymond and Mirjam and their three young children — stayed close to home in their kibbutz “because of all the sirens,” and so were safely ensconced in their bomb shelter when it was struck by a rocket from Gaza.
“We were in the bomb shelter. The kids were playing, and suddenly there was another ‘Code Red’ [siren], and we heard the rocket hit. It was very loud and closer than usual, and the electricity went out. We looked at one another and realized that the house was hit, actually hit,” Mirjam told Channel 12.
She recounted: “We heard lots of things breaking around us, and we just waited in the shelter for instructions from the kibbutz. The security officer [of the kibbutz] came to the house to see what had happened.”
After they left the shelter, they surveyed the destruction in their home.
“It was hard to breathe, dust was everywhere and a lot was broken. We left the house and haven’t returned. I still don’t know what was destroyed. It was all black and dusty,” said Mirjam.
The family moved in with neighbors for the time being as they begin to assess the damage.
Asked if they regretted the decision to move to a kibbutz so close to the Gaza border, Mirjam said, “We don’t even think about leaving our home. This is our home… We’re more angry, it’s frustrating. This whole situation doesn’t look like it’s going to end — it will end and then start up again. The kids were very frightened, but now they’re okay.”
On Sunday, Raymond Reijnen told Army Radio that the kibbutz had been hit by rockets several times since they moved there, but that this was the first time a home had sustained a direct hit. He noted with dry good humor that “they don’t fire rockets at people” in Holland, but said the family would not be deterred from living where they do. After all, he remarked, the chances of being hit twice were pretty slim.
“That’s the beauty of this neighborhood. Everyone sympathizes with each other, everyone is there for each other,” Raymond told a Dutch media outlet. “Shortly after the attack I said: ‘I would like a beer now.’ Five minutes later a neighbor stood in front of me with a beer. How crazy that is.”
The Reijnens are among dozens of Israeli families whose homes suffered damage on Saturday, in an escalation of rocket fire from Gaza that killed one Ashkelon man and left an elderly Kiryat Gat woman in serious condition.
Separately, children were caught on camera lying down in the center of a soccer field with no protection on Saturday morning, as sirens blared in the central city of Rehovot warning residents of an incoming rocket attack.
"הכול היה בזמן החימום", סיפר סמיונוב. "פתאום נשמעה אזעקה והילדים נשכבו על הרצפה. אחרי האזעקה החימום נמשך והילדים החלו במשחק. הילדים כבר שכחו ונכנסו לתוך אווירת המשחק, אבל אנחנו ההורים שמשקיפים עליהם והגענו לעודד חוששים מאוד, יש לחץ באוויר". pic.twitter.com/23mvHui2Ty
— Or Ravid | אוֹר רביד (@OrRavid) May 4, 2019
The group of children, aged 10 and 11, were playing when the siren started wailing throughout the city.
“Suddenly there was a siren and the children had to lie on the ground,” said parent Dmitry Semyonov.
Semyonov’s sons said they weren’t frightened, but just wanted to get on with the game. “We were not afraid of the alarm, we just wanted to keep playing,” Mishel and Niki told the Ynet news outlet.
Many older buildings do not have shelters, and residents have to either run for public shelters or lie on the ground and try to protect themselves.
“We heard a siren. We hadn’t managed to get out of the house when we heard a loud boom and the windows shook,” Ashkelon resident Osnat Yopin-Shriki told Channel 12 news. “I live in an apartment without a shelter and we do not have a public shelter nearby, so we just lay down on the floor and covered our heads.”
“There are disabled people here and small children who spend sleepless nights,” she said. “Something must be changed.”
Nofar Margalit told the outlet she and her family left their home in a Gaza border community as it doesn’t have a safe room, and went to Ashkelon, which was also targeted by rockets on Saturday.
“We are fleeing not to a better place — to Ashkelon — but with all the explosions, it’s preferable to being in a house without a shelter,” she explained. “It was a crazy morning, it’s unbearable.”