We drove one hour south of Tel Aviv to a beautiful kibbutz, Kfar Aza, with stunning nature, panoramic views and a super supportive community. The kibbutz is situated on Israel’s western border with Gaza, and when we arrived we were met by a local resident, Chen Kotler, who showed us all around and explained the difference between her life growing up on the kibbutz 30 plus years ago to the life of today, both in terms of how kids were raised then (in childrens houses) to now (in the same home as their parents). She fondly recalled her childhood, and how she remembered having friend relations with the Gazans all the way up to the year 2000. She would regularly travel to the area or shopping, or to visit the stunning beaches and, of course, to enjoy the tasty humus on Shabbat.
Unfortunately after Israel unilaterally pulled out of the Gaza area in late 2005 leaving the Palestinian Authority in charge, about a year or so later Hamas took over the Gaza region after a bitter battle with Palestinian Authority (Fatah) and a different reality was created, one that includes kassam rockets, mortars, deadly balloons and frequent red alerts that provide less than 10 second warning to run into a bomb shelter.
This small kibbutz that has always been located within the internationally recognized boundaries of Israel. It is a beautiful place with views, nature, good schools, and a great supportive community. We enjoyed a typical kibbutz lunch in the communal dining room. Unfortunately, for the last 14 years, the families and more specifically, their children, have raised in an atmosphere where they are constantly in fear of the deluge of rockets, mortars and deadly balloons that are intermittently launched from Gaza.
In fact since January 2020 over 300 rockets were launched so far this year. We saw some of the remnants of these deadly munitions that have fallen on and near the kibbutz. In the US or elsewhere in other countries, it would be unimaginable to live in a place that can be under fire at a moments notice. However, despite the deadly rockets, the emotional toll that it takes on children who are afraid to sleep alone, or on a mother who has to decide in an instant which child she is going to run and grab if she only has 10 seconds til a bomb might hit, as the too frequent visits to the community bomb shelters that are part of daily life, the community possesses an enormous heart and hope for peace, and genuinely believes in a fair and just two state solution where Palestinians and Israelis can live in two independent states, side by side. Perhaps they are dreaming perhaps not. But they do feel where there is a will there is a way. Hope is very much alive on Kibbutz Kfar Aza.