15 Seconds

Dov Hartuv

15 seconds.  As I noted in my post yesterday, that’s the time Israelis who live within reach of Gaza rockets have to take shelter from the moment the civil defense sirens wail.

However, while touring Kibbutz Nahal Oz, the site of Saturday’s mortar attack, we learned that such projectiles (as opposed to rocket fire) aren’t detected by Israeli monitoring devices, leaving residents absolutely no warning before impact.

Dov Hartuv, a long time resident of the community, came to Israel forty years ago but, by his own admission, his native South African accent hasn’t diminished a bit.

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Nahal Oz was first founded by a group of soldiers who served in the “Nahal” Israeli army unit opposite Gaza, in 1953.

The Kibbutz has had its ups and downs, and the current danger posed by rocket fire from Hamas is seen in the context of previous threats they’ve lived through over the years.

During the first fourteen years – when Gaza was controlled by Egypt – Nahal Oz suffered from artillery shelling and mines planted in their fields. (Parts of the kibbutz fields straddle Gaza.) There were also many border infiltrations during that period. Four members of the kibbutz were killed during the first few years of the new settlement, Dov told us.

The population of Nahal Oz  consists of 360 people, including members, children and residents. Since its founding, many soldiers have settled on the kibbutz and raised a family after their army service. The kibbutz has also absorbed many families from the city, new immigrants from Russia, Argentina and the U.S.

The young men and women from Thailand who work at Nahal Oz do so because, despite the fact that their salary and accommodations are modest, they still earn enough to send money to their families back home.

On Saturday, four 181 mm mortar shells, fired from Gaza, exploded in the kibbutz, including one which slammed into a worker’s home.  One man is still hospitalized, sustaining serious shrapnel wounds to his chest. (The Thai worker pictured to the left is indicating he’s been working at Nahol Oz for four years.)

Dov spoke of the risks of living at Nahal Oz with a sobriety consistent with most of those who I spoke with that day – Israelis not governed by fear, but also not blind to the very real dangers they, and their families, face.

He, like the overwhelming majority of those who call Nahal Oz home, is fiercely secular – the community is currently debating the suggestion by one resident to build a synagogue – but also fiercely protective of the kibbutz (and Zionist) values which brought him to Israel in the first place.

Like the overwhelming majority of Israelis on both sides of the political spectrum, residents of Nahal Oz are proudly nationalistic.

Though burdened with risks which most in the West will never have to face, they have no interest in evacuating to safer ground, and have no doubts about their right to live where they wish in the Jewish homeland.

In September, a rocket fired from Gaza landed just across from the kibbutz kindergarten (picture right).

As is the custom at Nahal Oz, a tree was planted at the precise location where the rocket landed – as a symbol that their pragmatism is always balanced with an inextinguishable hope for a peaceful future.

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8 replies »

  1. In what sense is this advertisement “monitoring and exposing antisemitism in the Guardian’s Comment Is Free blog”? Or has Cif acquired a “Launch rocket” button since I last visited (admittedly a while ago)?

    While even a dud Qassam is not a rain of rose-petals, to judge from the picture the one outside the kindergarten didn’t explode. Is that usual?

  2. Rob, the tree was planted AFTER the Kassam landed. I’m not sure on what basis you assume the Kassam didn’t explode.

  3. Rob,

    let me get this straight. A projectile, launched by a terrorist group in Gaza which openly seeks Israel’s destruction, lands a stone’s throw away from a kibbutz kindergarten and you’re quibbling with the specs of the rocket?

    Are you suggesting that it was all an elaborate ruse, or some sort of propaganda show?

  4. I get very annoyed when people throw litter into my garden though very little indeed is at stake.

    Israelis and the foreign workers are very heroic – or the foreigners are at least stoical.

  5. IMHO Stoicism under this threat qualifies as heroism

    even the effort needed to blend out the threat, deny it to yourself is heroic

  6. Silke, I thought about it but they are economic migrants. That seems to me a different motivation from knowing that you are in the right place.

    Jews in other places somehow seem to have to keep trying to justify their presence. An outrage. But comparing that to knowing that you’re all right in your own country must be different from being a non-resident whatever – NRIs for India. NRT for Thais, I suppose. They send their money home.

  7. And I emphasise that being “all right” in Israel is utterly different from being safe. For anyone courageous enough to be there.

  8. Rob, may I ask you whether you are at all aware of the real reason (ie not the guff fed to people by the likes of al-Grauniad) that, in spite of the fact that they cannot hope to win, Islamist Arabs are still launching rockets from within their own civilian population in Gaza at civilians in Israel?

    As of January 2008, over 10, 000 rockets have been launched at Sderot and the western Negev by Arab/Muslim terrorists. Over 1,000 wounded or killed since 2001. Without the kassams there would have been no Cast Lead.

    Let me give you a clue: at base level it is about the inveterate hatred of Jews by Muslims, who have been fed on this hatred since they were first aware as children.

    Since CiF cranks up the self-imposed victimhood of these Gazan Arab professional charity cases (and it is self-imposed, because if their leaders had one brain cell between them they would stop and sue for peace for the sake of their own children because they are never going to succeed in the route they are choosing now) then they are supporting Muslim mindless antisemitism, aren’t they?

    And the following shows the fear of being under kassam fire.


    Watch it, and think how long you would be able to stick it out there in Sderot before you make a fool of yourself here, mm?