Monday, June 16, 2008

Life on the Gaza Border

Today Sigal and I joined a Gaza Border Region Field Tour for over 50 foreign journalists, organized by TIP - THE ISRAEL PROJECT ( There were reporters from Brazil, Spain, the Netherlands, UK, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Turkey, China, Russia, Australia, the US, Canada, and more. We visited the factory on Kibbutz Erez, where we heard about the impact of the security situation on the kibbutz members and their children and on the factory workers, (most from the kibbutz or from Sderot). The factory supplies their overseas customers on time despite the situation, but workers are under constant stress.

Chen Abrams from Kfar Aza told us how her 8 yr old son sleeps in the bed with her and her husband every night - his own bedroom faces "the direction of the threat" - she wants him near when the siren goes off. She still remembers a time when she would go shopping in Gaza, eat humous in restaurants and go to the beach there.She passed round metal missile fragments from a kassam that landed on her neighbors house.

We stopped at Nahal Oz and heard from Yankele Cohen, "the potato man", about living and farming within a stone's throw of the Gaza border with the constant barrage of kassams, mortar fire, and continual threat of terrorists tunneling their way through the border. At the fence leading into the kibbutz we stopped to view Gaza, less than a mile away.

Col. Nir Press (head of the Coordination & Liaison Administration) gave an impressive briefing outlining the whole situation, how frustrating it is when the Hamas bomb the crossings that service their own Gaza population; how Israeli citizens man the crossings under constant threat. It is an ongoing challenge to balance humanitarian requests against security threats.

Two women who received permits to visit hospitals in Israel turned out to be suicide bombers, luckily caught and jailed before they could murder Israeli citizens. We saw a clip of Palestinians terrorists firing missiles at Israel from Gaza residential areas, and from an active children's school.

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The tour continued on to Sapir College where we heard from social workers about students and teachers suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome which is not so "post" because it has been going on for 8 years, and is still ongoing.

In Sderot we were briefed by Major Chezi Deutsch of the Home Front Command. Home Front distributes material explaining what to do in emergency situations, in many different languages, and even in Thai - for the Thai workers on the kibbutzim and moshavim.

Sigal and I had to leave the tour at this point but the intrepid journalists continued on to visit the Nirlat paint factory at Nir Oz, continually hit by Palestinian terrorist mortar fire,7340,L-3554195,00.html, and then down to Kibbutz Kerem Shalom on the Egyptian border.

Thanks to Eli Ovitz, Mark Regev, Marcus Sheff, Rachel Fishman and everyone at The Israel Project.

We returned safely to Ashkelon from our trip to the Gaza border but not long afterwards we heard the siren. From our safe room we heard the "boom" - a missile fell near the Shuk in Migdal, landing ironically enough in the old Moslem cemetery. Another miracle for us - only one person was lightly injured. Missiles also fell near where we visited today.,7340,L-3554195,00.html


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