Natan Sharansky with some residents of the Iv
Natan Sharansky with some residents of the IvMoshe Shai

Although “only” three Israelis have been killed as a result of the ongoing Hamas terror rocket attacks against Israel, hundreds of thousands of people are suffering – perhaps none more than residents of immigrant absorption centers in southern Israel. Unlike veteran Israeli families, these new immigrants – many of them olim from Ethiopia – have no family elsewhere in the country to take them in, and hence nowhere to go.

On Monday, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky visited one of these centers. Accompanying a delegation from the North American UJA-Federation, Sharansky visited the Ivim Absorption Center in the Sha'ar Hanegev area, one of the hardest hit spots in Israel over the last dozen years, incessantly targeted by Hamas for punishment.

The area has not only been targeted by heavy missile fire over the past week; it has suffered nearly daily rocket attacks for years, due to its proximity to Gaza.

Some 450 Ethiopian immigrants, most of them in the country only a few weeks, live at the center. The immigrants are the latest ones to arrive in Israel as part of project “Wings of Doves,” dedicated to bringing the last Jews of Ethiopia home to Israel. About 100 of the immigrants arrived in Israel the weekend before Operation Pillar of Defense began.

The Jewish Agency arranged for the children of these immigrant families to attend a special camp in the center of the country, where they attend classes and get to know the country. Their parents were left behind to deal with the daily reality of nearly endless Red Alert sirens, prompting them to run to bomb shelters and safe spaces.

Altogether, the Jewish Agency said, there were about 3,000 new immigrants living in absorption centers in areas of the south affected by Hamas rocket attacks.

An Agency spokesperson said that all the housing units in the Ivim center had their own “safe room” for residents to use in the event of a rocket attack. The spokesperson said that immigrants had undergone thorough training on how to react in the event of an attack, and that doctors and social workers were on hand to help the immigrants deal with the experience.

Commenting on the situation, one of the officials at the center said that the attacks on the homes of these penniless and often helpless immigrants by Hamas terrorists were the height of cruelty.

“Besides that, these are racist attacks,” the doctor said. “Hamas knows full well that the residents of many of these towns are Ethiopian, and the workers on the farms in this area are often from Africa or the Far East. That they have targeted these areas so much over the past dozen years shows that Hamas is not only a terrorist group – it's also a racist group.”