15 Seconds

Dov Hartuv

15 seconds.  As I noted in my post yesterday, that’s the time Israelis who live within reach of Gaza rockets have to take shelter from the moment the civil defense sirens wail.

However, while touring Kibbutz Nahal Oz, the site of Saturday’s mortar attack, we learned that such projectiles (as opposed to rocket fire) aren’t detected by Israeli monitoring devices, leaving residents absolutely no warning before impact.

Dov Hartuv, a long time resident of the community, came to Israel forty years ago but, by his own admission, his native South African accent hasn’t diminished a bit.

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Nahal Oz was first founded by a group of soldiers who served in the “Nahal” Israeli army unit opposite Gaza, in 1953.

The Kibbutz has had its ups and downs, and the current danger posed by rocket fire from Hamas is seen in the context of previous threats they’ve lived through over the years.

During the first fourteen years – when Gaza was controlled by Egypt – Nahal Oz suffered from artillery shelling and mines planted in their fields. (Parts of the kibbutz fields straddle Gaza.) There were also many border infiltrations during that period. Four members of the kibbutz were killed during the first few years of the new settlement, Dov told us.

The population of Nahal Oz  consists of 360 people, including members, children and residents. Since its founding, many soldiers have settled on the kibbutz and raised a family after their army service. The kibbutz has also absorbed many families from the city, new immigrants from Russia, Argentina and the U.S.

The young men and women from Thailand who work at Nahal Oz do so because, despite the fact that their salary and accommodations are modest, they still earn enough to send money to their families back home.

On Saturday, four 181 mm mortar shells, fired from Gaza, exploded in the kibbutz, including one which slammed into a worker’s home.  One man is still hospitalized, sustaining serious shrapnel wounds to his chest. (The Thai worker pictured to the left is indicating he’s been working at Nahol Oz for four years.)

Dov spoke of the risks of living at Nahal Oz with a sobriety consistent with most of those who I spoke with that day – Israelis not governed by fear, but also not blind to the very real dangers they, and their families, face.

He, like the overwhelming majority of those who call Nahal Oz home, is fiercely secular – the community is currently debating the suggestion by one resident to build a synagogue – but also fiercely protective of the kibbutz (and Zionist) values which brought him to Israel in the first place.

Like the overwhelming majority of Israelis on both sides of the political spectrum, residents of Nahal Oz are proudly nationalistic.

Though burdened with risks which most in the West will never have to face, they have no interest in evacuating to safer ground, and have no doubts about their right to live where they wish in the Jewish homeland.

In September, a rocket fired from Gaza landed just across from the kibbutz kindergarten (picture right).

As is the custom at Nahal Oz, a tree was planted at the precise location where the rocket landed – as a symbol that their pragmatism is always balanced with an inextinguishable hope for a peaceful future.

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