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Life on the Gaza Border

Israeli family goes from tranquil pastures to rocket alarms

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25 May 2021
Life on the Gaza Border

Forty-one years ago, hope filled Margaret Duvdevani’s heart when she, along with her husband and three small sons, decided to immigrate to Israel from Birmingham Alabama. With trepidation, her friends reminded her that in Israel, her sons (a 5-year-old and a pair of 3-year-old twins) would one day need to serve in the Israeli army. In Margaret’s mind, though, that day was still far in the distance.

Settling into a moshav (farming community) near Gaza, her life was idyllic. Away from the city, beautiful fields surrounded them, as did the sounds of happy children playing in big back yards and pet animals roaming the village. The years flew by, and all three boys entered the Israeli army when they turned 18 years old. Each one then returned safely after completing their three years of required service.

Unfortunately, their serene life came to an abrupt halt one summer’s day in June 2007, when Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip! Ever since, their new norm has included intensely frightful episodes of sudden rocket barrages, “red alert” sirens, the stress of all-out war every few years, incendiary balloon assaults, and other forms of terror attacks.

Initially, there was nowhere to run and no shelter nearby when the sirens alerted of incoming mortars plummeting down within 15 seconds. So Margaret and her family would lie down on the ground with their hands covering their heads.

“I can’t even remember how many times we have gone through this, but I can tell you it doesn’t get easier”, Margaret recently told the ICEJ.

She now has a bomb shelter in their home, yet she added: “However great this is, our days are long and filled with lots of noise both from Gaza as they fire their missiles, and also from our own army and air force with planes flying in the skies most of the day and night, helicopters patrolling the area, artillery shooting their cannons and shaking our house, and even the noise of the Iron Dome missile interception system as it takes off miles away to intercept an incoming missile.”

During the recent Hamas rocket war against Israel, traumatic stress once again reared its ugly head for Margaret’s village. Children could not enjoy the playgrounds or meet friends, as everyone needed to stay close by the shelters in their own homes. Her family spent hours in the shelter with sounds of explosions and other sudden noises all around.

“There were times when my 8-year-old granddaughter would not come out of the shelter, even to eat”, Margaret shared. “We can only follow the rules of the Israeli Home Front Command and pray for safety every time the ‘code red’ siren goes off. This is the never-ending story of our lives here on the border of the Gaza Strip.”

“Sadly, this is only one account of the trauma experienced by those living near the Gaza border”, explained Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for AID and Aliyah. “Whole communities are being traumatized. We are acutely aware of the desperate needs these communities have and we are committed to letting them know that they are not alone by providing practical aid.”

While a fragile ceasefire is now in place, this does not mean the quiet will last. The situation on the border remains tense and very uncertain.

The ICEJ is currently responding with emergency relief efforts that include:
1) Providing bomb shelters in public places so that residents can go about their daily lives on the front lines with greater peace of mind. The need for more bomb shelters is immense, as a state comptroller’s report last year found that about 30% of Israelis (2.6 million) do not have access to functional bomb shelters near their homes, including over 250,000 civilians who live near the Gaza and Lebanese borders – areas under the highest threat of rocket attack.

2) Providing protective vests and other gear for volunteer security and first responder teams who are on the front lines 24/7. They remain in full-time emergency mode as Palestinian terror militias in Gaza continue to ignite wildfires in their fields and villages with incendiary balloons.

3) Supporting trauma relief and assistance projects in the Gaza periphery communities, where resilience centers and trauma counsellors are helping families and children deal with the immense anxiety and the long-term impact of the incessant rocket and terror attacks.

4) Assisting with social welfare projects which are providing basic aid and relief to desperate and disadvantaged Israeli families in the hardest hit areas of the conflict, including in Sderot, Ashdod, Ashkelon and other cities and towns which recently came under repeated rocket fire.

Thank you for standing with us as we continue to respond to the destructive impact of the recent conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Please continue to support our efforts in relieving the trauma experienced by Israeli families living on the Gaza border.

 

 

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