oKaren, a mother of three young children in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, on the border with Gaza, wrote the following letter almost one year ago. In the letter, she expresses what life has been like for herself and her family, in a kibbutz that continues to be targeted by Palestinian rocket and mortar fire.
Karen has been living in Kfar Aza for almost 15 years with her husband and children. She made aliyah from England and began working on the kibbutz as a volunteer.
We interviewed Karen in Kfar Aza, in light of the recent death of Jimmy Kdoshim, a Kfar Aza resident, who was killed on Friday, May 9 by a mortar shell that hit his home, while he was standing in his backyard. He is survived by his wife, Anna, and their three children. Jimmy was a well known and beloved figure in the kibbutz community.
“The death of Jimmy Kedoshim was devastating for the entire Kfar Aza community. All the children knew him because he would hand out candies (toffee) during the holidays. He was well-known in the community,” Karen said.
"We feel that there is no one behind us," she added.
“I wrote this letter one year ago, hoping to get our story of our life --under rockets and mortar shells-- out to anyone who cares.”
Here, for the first time, Karen’s letter appears in complete form:
MY LIFE IN ISRAEL
June 3, 2007
I live on Kibbutz Kfar Aza, which is very close to the border with Gaza. The nearest town is Sederot. Here for the last seven years our area and specially Sederot have been taking the brunt of the Kasam rockets indiscriminately fired into Israel. In fact this is not true, the rockets are precisely targeted into residential, industrial and educational areas, at exactly the times of the day when people go to and return from work, schools and kindergartens. This is to have the maximum effect and cause the most DAMAGE, HARM and FEAR. With this aim in mind, they have been very successful.
As a mother of three very small children, the oldest being five and a half, my life obviously includes all the normal demands and obligations of any other mother here or abroad. Trying to raise a family along with my husband and hold down a fulltime job is in itself always demanding. (For example making quality time for the children after work, cooking, cleaning, laundry and so on). With the previously mentioned environment that my family and I have to contend with, has a dramatic affect on our every day life.
Living in fear is very difficult, but the worst is fear of all is for my children’s safety and well-being, when a kassam has been launched in the direction of Israel. There is a detection system that sometime works and sometimes doesn’t, this sets off the alarm, which is a loud speaker that repeats 3 times, COLOUR RED. Wherever we may be at the time, we have supposedly 20 seconds to get to cover. When outside, we need to get inside and when inside our home, to go to what we would consider the safest place in the house, next to a wall with the least amount of windows. When this happens my children know this is serious and to see their reaction is so painful and disturbing for me.
To see the expression on their faces, even on the one and a half year old and especially on the five and a half year old. We normally hear a boom the sign it has landed, thank God it was not on us this time, and try to continue with whatever we were doing previously.
The cruel reality is, that on the majority of occasions that the kassams and mortars have actually landed on our Kibbutz the alarm didn’t work, due to the fact that we are so close to Gaza, that the detection system doesn’t have time to react. The kassams and mortars are falling here without any warning. This is obviously very concerning to say the least and consequently leaves us feeling very insecure.
I normally finish work at 15.50 pm in order to pick up the kids before the kindergarten closes. Already from 15.00pm I start to get butterflies in my stomach with nerves, knowing that this is the time of the day when the attacks are likely to take place. I find myself avoiding the playground, where I know my children want to go, after a long day in the kindergarten (7.30-16.00). I tend to take them as quickly as possible straight home, much to their disapproval. On the way home, occasionally looking in the direction of the sky, but not for the reason of checking the weather.When arriving home I am a little relieved, as if my home is a safe haven, fooling myself, because I know it isn’t. The houses on the kibbutz are not reinforced or fortified in any way.
In September my oldest son Daniel is starting school. He will travel every morning on a bus to Shar Hanegev education center, which is situated next to Sederot. Shar Hanegev and Sederot are very popular targets for the kassams, and are hit frequently.
I lie awake at night worrying not only for the safety of my family, but also for the long term effects this situation and environment is going to have on my children and their future.
I know that people are suffering on both sides of this terrible situation, I also feel pain for them and their children. It’s a real pity that their leaders do not hold the same compassion for their own people as I do. The violence continues and as always leads to retaliation and the vicious circle is never ending. It is as if they enjoy or get some sort of weird kick out of their violent acts, even at the cost of their own peoples lives.
--Karen, mother of three
Photo: Spencer Ho