Southern Residents Fear for Their Lives as Rockets Keep Falling
As the IDF mobilizes for a possible ground offensive, Israelis living within the line of Hamas rocket fire wait in fear and frustration, having been forces to stay within a 15-second distance of their nearest bomb shelter as rocket after rocket falls on their homes from Gaza.
"I'll be awake at 2:30 am, unable to sleep from anxiety that I may not be able to get to our 'safe room' if a rocket falls," one Ashkelon resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told Channel 2.
Parents, in particular, are concerned over the rocket fire. More than just fearing for their lives and their children's safety, they have also been left without the possibility of working, as transport is dangerous and preschools and summer camps have been shuttered.
"I couldn't go to work today, but my daughter's safety is more important," Ortal, a resident of Moshav Beit Ezra between Ashdod and Ashkelon, stated Tuesday.
"There is nothing we can do. This is part of living in the south," she added, sadly. "I hope this time we can finish off Hamas and move on with our lives in peace."
Anxiety over the security situation is palpable throughout Israel, even outside of the 40 kilometer "danger zone" from Gaza. Residents within the firing zone find that fear follows them throughout their day - even when they have left their communities to find refuge deeper into the Israeli heartland.
The Eshkol and Sha'ar HaNegev Regional councils brought hundreds of children and teenagers, as well as adult support staff, to the Kibbutz Shefayim water park on Monday, to give young families a mental and emotional break from the rocket fire.
However, participants noted to Walla! News that the expedition, while welcome, did not bring them calm.
"We do not really know how to calm the children down," Oshrit Masala, 22, of Kibbutz Nir near Gaza, told the daily. "The kids are anxious all the time. Slamming a door startles them."
"We've had to stay within 15 seconds of a secure area and they grow frustrated and bored; they can't play outside, they can't run around," she added. "Even we are stressed - it's impossible to function normally, for a while we just started counting the rockets we heard outside."
Masala described life on the kibbutz over the past week, after a collective bar mitzvah ceremony was punctured by rounds of rocket fire and "Code Red" alarms that sent the entire community dashing into shelters.
"The children just kept crying," she said. "It was impossible to explain to them why their bar mitzvah was being bombed."
"Although they are acclimating somewhat, I don't think it will get better - ever," she added.
The children agreed.
"We hear a lot of 'booms.' It's really scary," said Shamir, 11, from Moshav Ehud near the Gaza border. He insisted that he would never leave, however. "Apart from the bombings, I love being there."
"Why do they only put the Iron Dome near Ashdod and Be'er Sheva?" he wondered. "It's not right that they don't protect us, we are the closest to Gaza and we're terrified of the sirens."