HER STORY #16 - lilach
For me, Nirim is a combination of heaven and hell. I have a lot of friends here, and it’s the best place to raise children. It’s not noisy like Tel Aviv, there is a good community, and I am very involved here. It’s my home. The entire kibbutz is my home. I know every person, and I have so many memories here.
Since my maternity leave, I have felt even more connected to the kibbutz.
On the other hand, it’s a minute from Gaza. For me, it couldn't get worse than that.
I am 33 years old, but I left Nirim when I was 22 years old. One of the main reasons was because I didn’t feel safe.
When it was dark, I wouldn’t drive on the road by the fence that circles the perimeter of the kibbutz. My friends in the kibbutz knew that when we were together at night, someone always had to walk me home, despite the fact that the crime rate here is non-existent.
Since the war, more people feel like I do, so I am not just a “loser” in that sense. In 2009, I wrote the script and directed a movie about someone who lives in fear of terrorists popping up out of nowhere. I don’t know where I got this idea from, but this was my fear.
When I would sleep at my mother’s house and I heard dogs walking on the leaves outside, it would frighten me, especially if I had come home late and everyone else in the house had already gone to sleep and it was quiet,. I thought it was a terrorist walking outside and I would wake up my mother. I did this when I was in my twenties.
Sometimes, when I was younger, I would sleep in my sister’s room. During July and August, it was very hot, but we would sleep with the windows locked and a heavy blanket because it made me feel more secure.
Anytime I would go to Tel Aviv to see my friends, I would drive around at night and I felt strong – everything was good. This showed me that it wasn't the lack of sun that frightened me. It was the location. Today, in Nirim, at 18:30 I lock the door and I turn off the light outside.
I have a memory from when I was a child of my father taking me by the hand and walking out to the kibbutz’s perimeter fence. All you could see were the dark fields and the lights from the Gaza Strip twinkling on the horizon. I thought that I would do the same with my children, but when it gets dark, I only manage to get as far as my neighbor's house and back.
Qassamim And Tunnels
Since August 26, 2014, the last day of last summer’s war, no rockets or mortars have landed in Nirim. However, many have landed in the surrounding region.
We have the Tzeva Adom [“Red Alert”] app, and two weeks ago at one o’clock in the morning it began ringing. My baby was sleeping next to me, so I instantly took her and pulled her towards me. I didn’t know the alert was for Ashkelon.
You think about it all day. Every house in Nirim and in the entire area, has a safe room, and usually the children sleep in the safe room. That’s how it works. Now all three of us sleep in the safe room, so if something happens, we are safe.
However, qassamim [qassam rockets] and tunnels are two different things. You get used to the rockets, but tunnels are something new, and scarier. As soon as a qassam rocket explodes, the danger is over. If there is a tunnel, terrorists could come out of the tunnels and into our kibbutz, which scares me. There won’t be any alarms; you will hear shooting. They will kill everybody they come across—until we kill them.
There is someone guarding the front gate of the kibbutz, but the tunnels that were found in the area behind the kibbutz. Sometimes the guard patrols the area, but the terrorists would have enough time to infiltrate.
From the summer of Operation Protective Edge until January 2015, there were soldiers here. While they were here, I felt safe. For the first time in my life I felt that I could sit safely outside my house after sunset.
We have “first responders” in the kibbutz, like my husband, but they don't walk around with their weapons 24/7. People could be killed in the gap of time between when the first responders rush home to get their guns and when they arrive to the place where the danger is.
I have two big dogs outside on the porch. A couple of weeks ago, my husband was called because there was an infiltration in the fields, so I was home alone with our baby. I brought the dogs inside, so if a terrorist came he would have to deal with the two dogs first. I turned off all the air conditioning units and all the lights, so they would think that nobody was home. I turned on a very small light and a fan that didn’t make any noise, and the only thing left open was the safe room. If they reached the safe room, I would lock the door very quickly.
I think I always try to be on the safe side. Last year, I left the kibbutz with the dogs a couple of days before the war started.
The night that there was an infiltration at Kerem Shalom, I was in Nirim. There were soldiers here, and the same day there were even more soldiers than usual. I knew that something was happening. It felt wrong. Everyone made fun of me; they told me I was being hysterical. The same night there was an infiltration.
Today people in the kibbutz say, “If Lilach is relaxed, we can be, too.”
I know in my gut that if it’s only in the north of Gaza, and they shoot at Ashkelon and Ashdod, it’s okay to stay in Nirim. Then I’m fine. But there are still days when I close the iron window plate.
When it gets dark, I think about infiltration all the time. A good friend of mine has a three-year-old child. She, her husband, and her child live next to the fence. Each night, she is concerned that there will be an infiltration or an attack. I suggested that she sleep in the room next to the safe room, closer to her children (even though that is not their bedroom).
I was raised on a song that someone from Nirim wrote. Every year at kibbutz celebrations, we sing this song (just like we did in the sukkah [temporary hut constructed on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot]). The song addresses how one day the people of Gaza and the people who live in Nirim will be able to interact, to be friends, to sit together, to work together, and to go to the sea together.
Then came the qassam rockets and tunnels, and we were hurt physically and mentally. I began to feel a lot more right-wing than left-wing. Sometimes when we say that all of them should be taken to the ocean, it’s not because we are bad people, but because we are so hurt from what they’ve done. We just want them to let us live quietly.
But I think a lot about the innocent people in Gaza—how poor they are, and how sad it is. I think of how we can help them. However, most days, I think about the evil people, and not the impoverished.
We have things in common with Gaza, but unlike our government that builds safe rooms to protect us, the Gazans don’t have anyone to build safe rooms for them to keep them protected.
Gymboree In The Periphery
Since my maternity leave and since I gave birth, I have been thinking about how I can do something to help the young families who live in Nirim. Since we are from the periphery, it's at least a 30 minute drive to the nearest city if I wanted to go somewhere with my daughter.
There were a few of us who were on maternity leave together, and every time we wanted to meet up, we had space issues. The houses here are too small to accommodate four mothers, babies, and the baby carriages.
So, for some time now, I have wanted to create a place for parents and children with different rooms inside of it. We really need a space like this here.
The building itself actually exists – it will even be reinforced against the rockets soon. Now my task is to try to raise funds for it. I have it all planned out.
One room would include a library with books you can read to your baby, and for small children to come and hear stories, and to take books home. Another room would be for babies to play with soft toys, mattresses, and games. A third room would have second-hand baby clothes, toys, and furniture that is preserved, organized, and presented aesthetically. The safe room would contain a small play area, so that if there is a period of heightened rocket threats, the children would have a safe place where they can play and run around. I am also thinking of having a big room with tables and chairs, where parents can eat together and drink coffee while their children play safely nearby. Presentations and lectures can also be done there. Outside of the building, I imagine a small petting zoo.
The sky is the limit.
Interview conducted on October 27, 2015