by Rachel Saperstein (Before her community´s expulsion from Gush Katif, Rachel Saperstein was a teacher at the N´vei Dekalim ulpana and a spokeswoman for the Katif Regional Council).
Our bit of security.
We have forty-five seconds from the time the missile leaves Gaza and reaches us. The tracking system lets each area know that a rocket is due to land in their vicinity. Then the siren wails. It may not land on your doorstep or penetrate your roof, but it is somewhere around.
I know all of this because we got notices from the Home Front Command, the Regional Council and our own N'vei Dekalim Council. The first two were slipped under our door; the latter, via email.
Today, we even were visited by the army, which has taken over the Community Center. Reserve soldiers, both English speakers, knocked on our door, introduced themselves and asked me how I was feeling and could they come in for a chat about security.
My first reaction was to say, “You pulled us out of our home instead of cleaning up the mess we lived under for five years.” My second reaction was my general politeness when people come to my door. I invited them in.
I assured them that I don’t feel very secure in this cardboard house.
The two young men felt uncomfortable, especially when they informed me that the Home Front Command was planning on bringing in large sewer pipes. Yes, you read that correctly, sewer pipes, made of thick concrete, for our protection. The pipes are to be distributed to each cul-de-sac. When the sirens wail, we are to run outside, crawl into our very own sewer pipe and wait five minutes, or at least until we hear the explosion. Then we crawl out and return to our cardboard homes.
I stared open-mouthed in disbelief. From our homes in Gush Katif to cardboard caravillas in a refugee camp to a sewer pipe. We have certainly hit rock bottom. I laugh as I write this. I have tears in my eyes as I write this. I was assured that the pipes would withstand an explosion close by, but not a direct hit. Our bit of security.
The south of Israel has become a war zone. We went to Ashkelon yesterday. The health clinic I visited was practically empty. The mall in which it is located was mostly closed. Even the pharmacy, open when we arrived, was closed when we left at 4:30 pm. Except for a shop selling mobile phones, all was dark and deserted. A large city lives under the shadow of massive rocket attacks. Children can no longer go to school. Social and cultural events are canceled.
Our local grocery and greengrocer are still well stocked. Mail is delivered. Electricity is still on. For how long?
This afternoon the sirens wailed. We heard three explosions in the distance. Friends are calling, offering us a place of refuge. An emergency committee is being formed. I volunteer for it.
A reporter for a Danish newspaper called. Would I meet with him and give him my take on the war? I agree and he is thrilled to be entering a war zone. Journalists are not allowed into Gaza, but those who lost interest in us after our expulsion are interested once again now that the war has reached us.
I keep thinking of a motto from our days in Gush Katif: “Those who flee from Gaza will find Gaza coming to them.”