Kibbutz Life · Living in Otef Azza · Now we're Nofei Habsor (prev. Ma'ale Habsor and Habsor) High School

January 15th – Ma’ale Habsor

I was awakened by booms and I could hardly open my right eye.

Tidings of things to come? No, who believes in ‘tidings’. I lay in bed for a while, letting tears flow, letting my eye clean itself, while I waited for the booms to identify themselves. Truth is that I’m not very good at sensing the sorts of booms we have. There are booms from our cannons, booms from qassams hitting the ground, booms from explosions of underground tunnels, mortar fire booms and sound-barrier explosive booms. There are sounds of rapid-fire gun shots and tank fire.  

On top of that, there are planes and helicopters and drones. 

So, this morning I woke up from unspecified booms and hoped that if my right eye would offer vision, I’d be able to read something from the morning paper about what was happening where.

Only now, this afternoon, after having returned home from teaching an English tutorial at Ma’ale Habsor, do I see what’s going on in Gaza City. On our walk we could see the landscape and the smoke.

This Operation has not yet ended.

I’ll talk about school. 

Out of 9 students expected to show up to study in a shelter, 5 arrived and 2 were otherwise engaged. Two remained unaccounted for. I think that those numbers are surprisingly good. Who knew that we’d be able to attract kids! We expected them  to give up sitting inside by themselves to venture to the forbidden school zone. And they did!

And they studied and were glad to be together.  I was glad to see them. Walking home, I saw two students on the school side of the fence. We were talking about what I would do if there were to be a “Tzeva Adom” while walking, when suddenly there was. I crashed to the dirt road and covered my head – they ran to the nearest shelter. After 15 seconds, there was no boom, and it wasn’t clear if I should get up and go on my way, or stay down. I waited another 15 seconds or so and then I got up. They came back to see if I’d heard the boom. There had been none.

Later on, we discovered that the qassam had fallen on Tze’elim, a location that usually is safe from qassams. One of those two students was from Kibbutz Tze’elim. I wonder how he’s taking things.

School Construction

School, Jan 15th
School, Jan 15th

The school buildings are looking promising. Last week at this time, a qassam had fallen 5 meters or so from the construction workers, but today they were back on the job.

We’re going to be resuming studies next week. 

Word is beginning to be passed around that we’ll be studying in shifts. This should be interesting.

May the day be safe. If you can reach shelter, do so.


Kibbutz Life · Living in Otef Azza

January 10th, Nir-Oz, update

It’s early morning. I don’t feel like writing. Why not? Cause it’s the same scenario. Why repeat myself? But, I will.

Last evening at 5:00 p.m., we had one Tzeva Adom alert. The boom landed, we exhaled again. Our evening passed, the noises outside continued. There are louder booms, now, new noises and they require analysis before the sigh of relief can be heard.

All morning, there have been planes, booms and echos of booms. We’ve had qassams landing in fields close to our residential areas. Along with that, my neighbours are having an uproariously good time with their fast growing puppy.

Their laughter and loud voices intertwine with the planes overhead.

Perhaps some of you know that the residents of this area have been provided with electronic devices that beep when there’s an incoming qassam or when we are informed of other security matters. Well, we, in this house, declined the presence of that beeper. More anxiety due to electronic beeps is the last thing I need.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you might know that I’m a puppet-maker and slicing foam rubber, applying contact cement, correctly fitting a mouth, all are things that require time and concentration. Beepers destroy focus and therefore, beepers are not welcome here.

There are, however, beepers faithfully turned on in both neighbours’ houses. (I live in a row house of 4 units, sandwiched in the middle). When the beepers go off, the poor puppy, who right now is revelling in the sunshine near the bomb shelter, cries. The puppy knows that beeper is not a good thing, and she cries.

So, for her sake, I’m happy that we’re not being beeped, that the sun is shining and that the neighbours’ voices are loud. But for myself, with the boom and echo of noises of that other reality, I can only say: may we all return to sunshine bliss very soon.

I’ll update later. Perhaps I’ll be visiting one of my children, right now located on a more southerly kibbutz.

Have a good day,

Judih, 9:27 a.m.

thinking aloe thoughts
thinking aloe thoughts
Kibbutz Life · Living in Otef Azza

Kibbutz Nir Oz, January 4th update + evening update

Operation Cast Lead – Ground Forces enter

We were all told to prepare a bag. A bag to carry us for up to 48 hours in a bomb shelter. Our municipality website told us, our shelter rep called us and then we got a text message from the kibbutz head of security. So, I had a bag ready. What was in that bag? First I put in toothbrush and socks, then I put in wheat crackers and apples. A towel. What to have ready for a sudden leap to the shelter? Who knew.

Then we got a text message saying that we could hold off from jumping into the shelter just yet. Protected structures were enough.

So, we sat listening to the tune of boom, boom, boom in the distance – our tanks, our artillery, no Tzeva Adom so, we figured we weren’t hearing qassams. Eventually, we went to bed. Our daughter chose to sleep on the living room couch just outside our bedroom.

I fell asleep, then awoke. It was only 12 midnight. Grateful that I was still in bed, but listening to those never-ending booms never ending, my mind leaped to all of my last year’s Yod Bet (grade 12) students, possibly in the field now, with helmut and camouflaged face. I tried to relax.

 Boom. Boom.

I woke up again, peered at my cell phone – 1:00? G was awake, so he tried his luck in the dark and came up with 4:00 a.m. Far better. We’d almost made it through the night. On a regular day, he’d already have been at work, but today is different. There are far fewer people on the kibbutz and the amount of food to be prepared today would not require such an early start.

It’s now 5:23, and I’m about to drink the coffee I wanted back at midnight. The house shakes with the booms, but the news says nothing about what’s going on in this immediate area. TV news will be renewed only at 6:00 and I don’t want to listen to the radio for fear of waking up my daughter.

I’ll check in later. I’m safe. Hope you’re safe.

Judih, 5:30 a.m.

Evening Update: 17:08

The morning was peacefully sunny. I could hear the occasional boom, with no Tzeva Adom, which meant that it came from the Israeli forces, or that it was mortar fire (for which there is no warning system) or that it was a qassam and the warning system didn’t work.

In any case, it was quieter than usual for which I was grateful.

Telephone Circuit

On the telephone circuit, I dealt with my friend staying in Yafo, wanting desperately to come back home to the neighbouring kibbutz, but not knowing if it was the right time. She was mulling it over.

Relief comes in bizarre guises

Another friend was noticeably relieved that the ground forces had entered and that she no longer had to worry about when they would do so. The worry, the fear, the dread can take a sane person and push them towards the freak-out point.  Reality, no matter how dire, can often prove easier than one’s imagination.

Can’t Live There, Can’t Stand not Living There

A third friend, located in Jerusalem, was sympathetic, wanting to hear how I was coping. Her children, having lived here till last summer, were pulled in two, happy to be away from the area while longing to be with their friends to make sure they were safe.

Bomb Shelter Life

My parents called to find out how long I’d been sleeping in a bomb shelter. As the News puts things, that people in the South have been ‘living in bomb shelters’, so a friend of theirs decided that I, too,  as an Otef Aza dweller was living in a bomb shelter for most of the past year. Well, first I have no bomb shelter in my house. If I had, I imagine I would have popped in and out of it quite a bit, but the fact is that last night was the first night ever that people on Nir-Oz were told to be prepared to go into the community shelters if word came from the Army.

So,  how did these phone conversations end?

One friend will remain in Yafo. Another enjoyed her second wind till she found out that one soldier has been killed and another critically wounded, the very thing of which she was most fearful. The third friend’s children will have a chance to re-meet their kibbutz friends as the Otef Aza kids will be taking a break in Jerusalem for the next few days. And, finally, my parents now know that I’ve yet to sleep in a bomb shelter.

Watching the qassams

While walking, G and I saw some qassams take off, pre-empting the  Tzeva Adom alarm, first from Nir-Lat and then from the separate Nir-Oz  system. We then heard the whirling propeller of the rocket and saw it land within the gates of the Kibbutz.

Not a great thing to witness, but there we were. When outside and faced with the Tzeva Adom alert, one is advised to lie down with hands over your head. This prevents injury from flying shrapnel if the rocket should land close by. However, if able to watch the sky to see where the rocket is landing, you get a far safer feeling than being inside, unable to see, blindly counting the seconds after the Tzeva Adom alarm is sounded.  I’m not recommending rocket hunting, I’m just stating a truth. It’s an incarcerating experience to be shut into a small space waiting to see if the boom comes close by.

Sometimes, it’s better to look. We were quite far from the explosion but seeing it’s landing location, we were able to advise the Kibbutz Security Head of where to look.

update: The qassam we witnessed landed just outside of our chicken house. One man was wounded lightly by shrapnel. Further update: Another man was wounded as well. The two of them crouched down in place when they heard the Tzeva Adom warning. A third man lay flat out and suffered no injuries. Again, following the orders of Pikud HaOref  (Homefront Command) is the best thing to do in times of emergency.

We’re going to the Kibbutz Dining Room.

Dinner’s at 6:53 p.m. tonight. Tomato soup. We’ll bring along some of our home-made bread to eat with avocado.  There will probably be very few diners this evening. Our kids are off the kibbutz. The workers who are building the new Ma’ale Habsor/Habsor High School have stopped sleeping on the kibbutz since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead. And the volunteers also were encouraged to go.

So, I’m wishing you a good evening. Hoping you’re safe.