Jan 17th…ceasefire or no ceasefire? till the decision

Noisy morning

We’ve been hearing some booms and constant planes (surveillance, mostly, I imagine) and I keep turning to the online newspapers to see what’s going on.

This morning we are hours before the Cabinet meeting to discuss the ceasefire agreement.

Check out Ynet:  (headline here)

Ahead of truce: Gaza op continues in full force


Less than 24 hours before cabinet meets to decide whether to accept ceasefire draft, IDF continues to strike in Strip. Dozens of Palestinians killed Friday, some of them civilians. Commanders, soldiers not ordered to slow down activity

Hanan Greenberg

Published:  01.17.09, 08:16 / Israel News


Check out Ha’aretz:  (marqee update first)

08:32 Color Red rocket alert sounds in Ofakim (Haaretz)

Last update – 06:41 17/01/2009
Cabinet to vote Saturday on unilateral Gaza truce
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press
Tags: Gaza, Israel News, Hamas, IDF





The cabinet will hold a vote on Saturday evening to decide whether to enact a unilateral cease-fire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.


The deal would also call for cooperation between Israel and Egypt on matters relating to the Gaza Strip in which they have shared interests, without the interference of Hamas.

The decision would mean Israel has put an end to the three-week-long Operation Cast Lead without an agreement with Hamas, relying instead on the support of the United States and Egypt in battling arms smuggling into Gaza.

A government source emphasized that there has been great progress with Egypt in reaching an agreement on fighting arms smuggling. The deal would require the combined use of technological measures on the border between Gaza and Egypt, operations against smugglers in the southern Gaza town of Rafah and the use of international experts to identify smuggling tunnels on the border.

On the ground on Kibbutz Nir-Oz

We’re listening to neighbours sweep away pecan leaves as other neighbours crunch among the leaves searching  for fallen nuts, the usual early Saturday morning sounds. Life goes on as usual.

pecans on tree


January 16th, Kibbutz Nir-Oz, comfort food edition

So, what’s your favourite comfort food?

During this Operation Cast Lead, my family has been eating bananas.

Yes, bananas.



And bran cake if I’ve made some.

bran cake

bran cake

And 60% chocolate.

Elite 60% chocolate (x 3)

Elite 60% chocolate (x 3)

So, I was wondering, what gets you through wars? Or times of prolonged stress.

Right now, I’m not talking about music (Rodrigo or Roy Orbison) or painting (tempera or acrylic) or long walks (orange groves or cityscapes) or any number of wonderful coping techniques. I’m just interested if you find yourself attracted to special foods.

What’s your favourite comfort food? If you’ve got one, please take time to answer. You will be contributing to a valuable source of reassurance.

Thank you!

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

Jan 8th – Nir Oz, fast update

Booms all night.

I slept heavily, but I was told the booms that I woke up to were similar to the booms all night.

Meanwhile, our local Municipal Council has stated that schools are hopefully re-opening next week. Kindergartens and Daycare centres will begin on Sunday and school will resume on Monday. All this is dependent on the authorization from the Homefront Command.

I’m on my way to the NATAL seminar on helping victims of terror and war.  I’ll be in Sheffayim, a kibbutz just north of Herzliya, all day and will taste life from another environment.

I’ll be back. Please keep your eyes and ears open. Information is precious.

Judih, 4:53 a.m. Jan 8/08

Kibbutz Nir-Oz, Otef Aza, 1st update of the day, Jan 5/08

Good morning, January 5th

The morning arrived – 3:30 a.m. with a huge boom.  My partner assured me that everything was okay. Still thinking of the previous night when I was prepared for a sudden warning to head down to the shelters, I had to shake myself back into calm. I took a walk, looked at the time, and buried myself under the blanket.

Everything’s alright. A phone call at 5:30. No one was there. Everything’s fine. Mymind rolls over all the possible phone callers, as I dial the code to discover the caller’s number. Nothing but the number ‘9’ a code for who knows what? Recently our kibbutz switchboard (or however it’s called these days) is a little bizarre.

So, it’s now 9:20 a.m. and I’ve checked out 5 TV stations for news. I’ve looked at 2 newspapers and read a few blogs.

What’s new?

Everyone’s asking how long Operation Cast Lead will continue. What will be the next phase? When will life get back to normal here in the south. When will schools resume. When will businesses get back to work. When will we be given the all-clear from the Army to start our life.

Will our life re-start before a viable peace agreement has been reached? Will there be such an agreement?

We, kibbutzniks, moshavniks, city dwellers all believe that of course, there’ll be some form of written agreement so that we’ll be able to continue to live, breathe, raise our children and our crops all to the tune of regular life sounds.


What are you doing in the meantime? One friend is cleaning the house, working on her garden, doing the long-form of her DVD Pilates. Another friend is accomplishing tons of work. Two others are in the city, looking after others, taking care of their children.

As for me, I believe in therapy. I believe in puppet therapy,and always have. So, I’m working on my puppets, investing more time than usual on rounding the foam rubber corners, smoothing out the scissor sculptures. I listen to music, whether country-rock, jazz or Roderigo guitar. I try to ignore the TV, but sometimes I’m swept into a TV movie. More therapy, of course.

On Thursday, I’ll be heading out to the Trauma Seminar in Kibbutz Sheffayim, hosted by NATAL,the Israeli organization for Trauma Rehabilitation for Victims of Terror and War. I’ll be attending lectures and a workshop devoted to my favourite form of expressive therapy, Psychodrama. I’ll be happily partaking in any trauma rehabilitation methods offered. I’m ripe for rehab!

The day is sunny, quite beautiful. Booms have been limited. I’ll be back.

Here’s a map of the area. Nir-Oz is just to the right of the label “Gaza Strip” :

Otef Aza - focus on Nir-Oz & neighbours

Otef Aza - focus on Nir-Oz & neighbours

mushroom cloud over in Aza

mushroom cloud over in Aza

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.

January 3rd evening update – ground forces have entered Aza

We spent a morning watching mushroom clouds of smoke spiralling up from Aza.

From about 5:00 p.m., we heard the sounds of artillery fire. My friend, J,  on a kibbutz further north in the Sdot Negev area has been hearing booms every 30 seconds.

Now, evening has approached and we’ve received notice that things might be getting more tense in our area. We were told to prepare emergency bags to carry us for up to 48 hours in the bomb shelter. Our bomb shelter which has been used as a rehearsal space, has no toilet nor running water, so a 48 hour stay does not seem possible. Hopefully, it won’t come to that. (update: Phone call to tell us that a chemical toilet has been provided.)

20:30 p.m.

Ground forces have begun their operation into Aza. We at home are glued to the TV and awaiting further instructions.

Stay safe.

Note, I posted Esther’s ‘Notes from Netivot’. Please take a look.


January 1st, 2009, update + further update

It’s raining, dawn has risen and we have booms to welcome the new day.

New Year’s Celebrations were cancelled last night (not that it’s part of everyone’s lexicon round here) and we went to sleep with the bang and question marks of these past few nights. What’s going on? Has the ground operation begun? What was that boom? Where did it land?

The end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 will be appraised as we are given more information.

The rain made this dawn particularly beautiful in a warm pink glow. The beautiful flowering bushes are fragrant and the scene is pastoral. Sound effects come and go.

Yes, I’m not saying much here, but there’s not much to add. I check the news and I read what the online newspapers print and again there’s little information.

I receive a bunch of New Year’s Greetings in my e-mail and I think how far away is that world where the idea of champagne is number one on a to-do list.

There’s no explanation nor description that adequately informs someone from another part of the world of why champagne is not on my mind. (Oops, I guess it is now!)

May the day go well. I’ll be back


jan 1/09 (shelter is under the tires)

jan 1/09 (shelter is under the tires)

Evening Update: 18:44

We were under orders to stay in protected shelters today, but it’s difficult to follow such orders when our shelter has no heat,  no working toilet. Our wonderful neighbour thoroughly cleaned it today, eradicating dust, shining up the place. She hung curtains over the shelves filled with dusty  film journals and radios, and covered the couch with something inviting. You could eat off the floor, if there’d been time to bring food, but of course there never is. We’ve got 15 seconds, if we’re lucky.

The rest of the day was spent listening to the landing of fired mortars, for which there are no alarm. I called a friend on a neighbouring kibbutz and heard that their Youth Club had been hit. No one was there, as their children are all off the kibbutz.

The Nir-Lat factory has a separate alarm and much of the kibbutz is able to hear their alarm. Rain clouds lingered over the kibbutz, but we managed to take an hour’s walk. We heard their alarm twice.

Walking offers a much-needed break from listening to the News, which is intense and repetitive. Forgive me, but  I won’t comment on the news. Remember, updates can be found at Ha’aretz or at Ynet.

We just had another Tzeva Adom here, and since we calculated that the safest place in the house is under the doorframe of our bedroom, we shared a hug in that tiny space while waiting for the boom. There were 2 booms in quick succession 11 seconds after the first call of the alert.

I want to remind all that Sderot Media Centre offers updates on the area including Be’er Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod and the other cities that are now receiving qassams and katyushas.

Puppet update: I’ve applied the 1st layer of paint:

puppets, 1st layer of paint, jan 1/09

puppets, 1st layer of paint, jan 1/09

May the rest of the evening be safe.


December 31st, first update of the day + evening update

morning: Alright.

Easy to sleep till the super-close rocket hit. The news is saying nothing. Does anyone know where it landed?

It took ages to fall back to sleep. But then came the dream:

Our house had been hit, the bathroom was a shambles. No one said anything for fear of aggravating fear. A silent acknowledgement that maybe we should think about moving down to the bomb shelter permanently.

But here it is morning and all’s quiet. The sink is attached to the wall, the tiles are whole, the shower isn’t neutralized. Just a dream.

Those others who worry

I read letters from my daughter in the U.S. and get phone calls from my parents in Canada. Friends are listening to the News and unable to discern truth from distortion. My son in Tel Aviv asks if it’s cool to come visit.

These are tense times because we’re being told how tense they are.

Yet, there’s now the possibility of a cease-fire. Hallelujah (if I may be so blunt). Let that potential expand into reality.

This reminds me of the Gulf War (check out the youtube TV link in Hebrew). We lived in Ra’anana during that time. I was pregnant with my third child. Everywhere I went, I carried along my gas mask, just in case. I took my daughter to school, my son to his daycare, and my belly and I lived life with scuds.  My writers’ group met in Ramat Gan looking at the latest devastated houses before sharing our work. Sirens interrupted dinner almost every evening. We’d seal ourselves in our room and inevitably, my daughter would have to use the toilet the moment everything was taped up.

One version of War Cookies

One version of War Cookies

I ate what we called ‘War cookies’ – chocolate covered waffles, perhaps you know the kind. I didn’t gain one gram during that period of time. The moment the war was ended, and my cookie habit deeply ingrained, I gained 10 kilos. I went from skinny pregnant woman to 10 kg heavier pregnant woman in a flash. What did it show me? That I’d been burning off all those calories with hidden anxiety.

So, am I fostering a 10 kilo anxiety right now? I sincerely doubt it, and our kibbutz col-bo (or mini-market) doesn’t carry those addictive War cookies. But 60% chocolate helps (in small doses) and maximum amount of time working on my puppets is helping me deal.

When this is over, I’ll have my puppets all ready for my personal therapy sessions. Puppet Therapy is the way. Sign up now if you want a good session.

Good morning. Hoping that the coffee will settle in for a nice upward ride as I ready myself for a day of anything is possible.

Happy last day of 2008 to all.


Wednesday, Dec 31/08 5:51 a.m.

evening Update : 19:13

The day was fairly quiet, a gorgeous sunny day and then the wind changed.  We took a long walk and while out heard “Tzeva Adom” from Kibbutz Nirim. We heard the boom and saw upcurling smoke.

After another few kilometers,  we heard “Tzeva Adom” from Nir-Oz.  We counted 4 booms, two on the western fields and two on the eastern.


What would you do? Would you lock yourself inside all day in an unprotected home, ready to bolt to a shelter at the call of the alert? Or would you step outside? The fact is that it’s easier to deal when I’m outside watching the skyline, able to see. Inside the house can be claustrophobic, and one’s imagination is far more frightening than the truth. Of course, there’s the issue of having no safe place at home and knowing that only qassams heading our way can trigger the Red Alert system. Any other mortar fire just hits, unannounced.

There have been a number of shells booming the Kibbutz this evening and just now another “Tzeva Adom” and another qassam landing. I fear I’m becoming repetitious, but this is what it is.

No where to run, nowhere to hide.

Those who are controlling the maneuvres have told us that tomorrow, kindergartens will be open as usual but in protected structures. Schools are still closed, but teachers are going to be working with students scheduled to do their Winter Bagrut in January. We’re devising ways.

Meanwhile, my own children are in Revivim, enjoying the Neve Midbar mineral pools, a marvellous place to relax.

And we, at home, are keeping the hearth warm.

May you have a peaceful end to 2008 and a joyous new year.

December 28th Update

It was a quiet night.

Though before the quiet night began we were offered beds in the protected Children’s Houses, at my friend’s house up north in Haifa and at another friend’s over in Meitar. We were also bombarded with text messages letting us know that all private kindergartens would be closed, that the Kibbutz kindergartens would be opened. We were told there’d be no bus service and then we were told there would be regular bus service.

In short, the text messages were coming fast and furious and for every new message, a litany of phone tones would come like a sing-song (All Along the Watchtower played by Jimi Hendrix on my son’s phone, Beyonce’s new song on my daughter’s phone, the theme from a fine old Australian series on my partner’s phone and my regulation nokia notification which is succinct enough to bring on adrenaline if the mood fits).

Not knowing what to expect next, we went to sleep wearing sufficient clothing to make a viable fast escape to the shelter outside across the path. However, when I woke up somewhere around 4:30 this morning, I was pleased to see that I was still tucked safely in my bed.

Now, reading the newspapers, I see that the army has been busy and I await some kind of sign that it’s good that I stayed at home instead of going to the English Teachers’ Conference in Be’er Sheva today.

I hope it’ll be great. Meanwhile, I think I’ll do some baking therapy and whip up some carob chocolate muffins. If they succeed, I’ll be back with a photo.

Good luck to all today.

update: 11:49 a.m.

Immediately after I thought about carob-chocolate muffins, we were told to go to the available shelters and stay there for about an hour. Then, came the signal to resume regular activities but to stay on alert.

The available shelter was once actively used as a rehearsal studio. There are a few chairs, a dusty couch and lots of egg cartons on the walls for soundproofing. I brought along my current reading book: The Devil’s Horn, the story of the saxophone written by Michael Segell, but I couldn’t get myself to sit down in that cold, dirty shelter.

Instead, I stood inside, close to the door, watching the green soccer field and listening for any sudden change in the birds regular patterns.

Back home, I muffin-ed

carob-chocolate muffins, (whole-wheat) by judih

carob-chocolate muffins, (whole-wheat) by judih

and resumed making my puppets (my large foam rubber spoken word faces).


foam rubber in process, judih

foam rubber in process, judih

puppet 1

puppet 1

puppet 2

puppet 2



December 28, 8:29 a.m.


update: 17:42

While walking outside the kibbutz today, we heard the “Tzeva Adom” call over Kibbutz Nirim. One qassam landed directly on a house; no injuries were incurred.

It remains quiet, but we’ve been told that Yuli Tamir, Education Minister, has instructed schools within a 20 kilometre strip of Aza to remain closed on Tuesday and till further notice.

Perhaps, we’ll be studying online. If so, I hope my students crank open their attention span to something larger than the regulation text message length.

Last night of Chanukah. May there be peace in our future.

Chanukah, 8th night, Chanukiah made by Zohar

Chanukah, 8th night, Chanukiah made by Zohar