Meeting with a group of mothers and their families from Israeli communities near the Gaza border, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power heard about the reality of daily life under the threat of rocket attacks from the Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas, The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday.
The meeting was held at Kibbutz Nachal Oz, a community of 380 people that sustained 265 rocket and mortar attacks during the 2014 war with Hamas. Four-year-old Danny Turgeman was killed by a mortar fired from Gaza in the closing days of the conflict.
Zohar Lahav Sheffer, one of the mothers in attendance, told Power that even a year and a half after the war’s conclusion, loud noises still make her three children jump. “They are scared of every sound they hear,” she said. “It reminds them of scary things from the war.” Sheffer, who comes from nearby Kibbutz Gevi’im, explained that her family had to leave their home due to the war. “They ask hard questions about why [they] should grow up in a situation like this,” she added.
The house of another mother in attendance, Adele Raemer of Kibbutz Nirim, was struck by a Hamas rocket during the conflict. The rocket also knocked out electricity to the entire kibbutz. “As terrifying as it is to be shot at when there is light, it is even more terrifying to be shot at in the darkness less than two kilometers from the border,” Raemer, an American citizen, told Power. She added that before the power was restored, the kibbutz was hit by yet another Hamas rocket, which killed two people and severely injured a third.
Another woman at the meeting was Atara Orenbouch, a mother of seven who moved to the border city of Sderot 17 years ago. Her children range in age from six to 23, prompting her to observe, “Some of my children were born into Kassam; that is the only thing they know.” Kassams are the names of some of the rockets that Hamas fires at Israeli communities. Still, Orenbouch said that she did not consider leaving, explaining, “we have a lovely community in Sderot.” Orenbouch added that her family lived in Sderot for one year before Hamas rockets started hitting the city, including one that landed in a neighbor’s backyard.
Janet Cwaigenbaum, who lives in Kibbut Nir Yitzhak, told Power that while her family was celebrating her son’s Bar Mitzvah as the war was beginning in July 2014, they could hear explosions echoing from Gaza. “We have to explain to our children that there are no monsters under the bed, but there are tunnels,” she said. “We do not know if a terrorist will come up from the tunnel.”
Another woman in attendance, Hila Haim Sheffer said that, having grown up in Nachal Oz, she witnessed how a “peaceful community” where Israelis and Arabs coexisted had become “a fearful place.”
“I have different memories from what my kids have now, good memories regarding the neighbors [Palestinians],” Hila Sheffer told Power. “I am very connected to the land here. I am [passing this on] to my kids. I hope they will stay here.” In response to a question from Power about how they kept hope alive, Hila Sheffer answered, “I am an optimistic person.”
Power offered words of encouragement to the families and praised them for their bravery in the face of threats and their understanding of the suffering on both sides. As a friend of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, the U.S. would work hard to bring peace between them, she added.
The United States “will always stand with Israel,” Power affirmed. “We will always stand for your security and for your legitimacy in the UN.”
In a speech earlier this week in Israel, Power lambasted the United Nations for its systemic anti-Israel bias.
A 2015 study conducted by Prof. Ruth Pat-Horenczyk, a director at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, found that “40 percent of children in Sderot experience symptoms of anxiety, fear, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
According to the IDF, Palestinian groups have launched over 11,000 rockets at Israel since it withdrew from Gaza in 2005, with over 5 million Israeli civilians living under threat of rocket fire.
[Photo: The Israel Project ]