Thoughts from Howie: Core18 Intern at One Family
Tuesday, 8th July
I spent my second day as an intern at OneFamily traveling around Southern Israel with Pini Rabinovitz. We visited and distributed checks to over 15 victims of terror and their families in Sderot and Netivot, brought a hot meal to 11 soldiers stationed at kipat barzel, and went to a yahrzeit service for a 4 year old boy who was killed 10 years ago by a Qassam rocket. It was a day filled with stories, remembrance, and realization. An incredible realization for me, an American Jew, of the reality that people in Southern Israel live with every day. To hear and read about the rockets that have been landing in the South in the New York Times and CNN cannot even begin to scratch the surface of understanding how these thousands of people live. Even visiting for 12 hours cannot put you in the mindset of these victims, for I knew that I would drive back to Jerusalem at the end of the day and sleep comfortably without having to worry about being woken up during the night by a tzeva adom. I cannot claim to understand how the people in Southern Israel live, however, I can help share some of their stories.
In the afternoon Pini and I visited Baruch Kogen, whose paint factory was hit by two Qassam rockets on June 28th. Thankfully there were no casualties, for the rockets hit on Saturday evening, however, the factory is completely destroyed. A construction crew was clearing out debris while we were there, but there were no workers to be found. Baruch explained that he had thirty employees working at the factory who are now without a job. He is able to continue paying them for the time being, but with close to 10 million NIS in damage, the factory will not be functioning fully anytime in the near future. These thirty employees are victims of terrorism. Although they were not physically injured by these rockets, these men and women are now unemployed and desperate for work. Some of these employees are sole providers for their families and others do not have the ability or experience to find another job. Baruch Kogen provided a living for thirty people and now that living has been decimated because of two Qassam rockets.
One of the most memorable visits I had yesterday was with a single mother of two boys. This mother spoke of the crippling fear her youngest son lives in. He is afraid to leave the house, go to the bathroom, or go outside to play with his friends because he fears he won’t make it to a shelter if a rocket lands. This fear has been instilled in so many children because of Hamas’ targeting of civilians in Southern Israel. It is not as if there is a war being fought between two militant groups. These terrorists target schools, homes, hospitals, and civilian neighborhoods. A 9 year old boy should not fear for his life while walking along the street or playing on a playground. This is the reality of a child that has been born into a region and a time where all he has ever known is terror. He does not know a life without Qassam rockets and tzeva adom. He does not know how it feels to occupy his mind with dreams and aspirations without it being disrupted by thoughts of terror and fear. This young boy is emotionally paralyzed because of Qassam rockets.
The last stop I made with Pini was a cemetery in Sderot. It was a yahrzeit service for Afik Zhavi, who was killed 10 years ago by a Qassam rocket at the age of 4. I did not know this boy and I do not know his family, but I could not shake the incredible sadness that came over me as we stood around Afik’s grave and remembered him. I stood and watched as family members leaned over and kissed the headstone of this child as they left. I saw their sadness, but I also so their resilience. These people are resilient and strong, they truly embody the notion of am yisrael chai. Afik was four years old and walking down the street with his mother when his life was taken because of a Qassam rocket.
Reflecting back on my day in the South with Pini I realized that my image of what a victim of terror looked like was extremely narrow. Before yesterday, when I pictured these victims I imagined that they would be physically marred or injured in a manner that outwardly obvious. I quickly realized that terrorism can have a widespread effect on people psychologically, emotionally, and economically. Thousands of civilians in Israel are living in an environment where they are being targeted by terrorists. Every person’s reaction to living in this environment is different and even beginning to address all of these problems is a difficult task. OneFamily takes on the near impossible challenge of addressing all of these needs in any way that they can. I am truly honored be a part of such an incredible organization that brings stability and happiness to victims of terror.