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.