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Ex-South Africans under fire near Gaza border

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South African olah, Nava Uner, has lived through two previous Gaza attacks, but this past week was undoubtedly the worst.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Nov 15, 2018

The young mother of a little toddler was petrified as incessant rockets rained down on southern Israel and took over her life in Bnei Nezarin on the border of Egypt, a mere 15km from the Gaza border.

“You have 30 seconds to drop everything and run as fast as you can into the nearest shelter, which is at my neighbour’s house. My son was clinging on to me and crying, “Imma, what is going on? Imma, what is happening?

“The noise from the sirens is deafening. You see the rockets coming down, and you hear it when they get intercepted by the Iron Dome. It’s crazy,” said Uner, who originally lived in Heidelberg, South Africa.

At the beginning of the week, Hamas in Gaza pounded Israel with more than 460 rockets, missiles, and mortars in a three-day reign of violence.

The SA Jewish Report tracked down a number of former South Africans whose lives had been interrupted because of the rocket fire from Gaza. 

Israel and the Palestinian groups agreed to a ceasefire late on Tuesday, after two days of constant attacks. While some welcomed the ceasefire, for many in the south it was a devastating blow.

“People are fed up,” said Uner, who works as a garden therapist at a rehabilitation centre for the disabled.

“Schools close, mothers can’t go to work. There are constant sirens. It is a nightmare,” she said.

“Being a mother has completely changed my experience of these flare-ups. I have a little life to protect now, whereas before I just had myself to think about. Little people know what is going on; they are not fools. You see the bombs. It’s like fireworks, but it’s not, it’s bombs.

“It’s very traumatic. I try explain to my little boy that it is okay to be afraid, and I tell him Hashem is looking after us and carrying us on his wings.”

For ex Durbanite, Lara Metodi, of Ashkelon, this week’s attack was a case of deja vu, as she had visions of her apartment being bombed like it had been six years earlier.

“All I could think was that my roof was going to get bombed again. The only difference now is we have the Iron Dome warning us and protecting us. The last time it happened, at 5:30, it was pandemonium. You heard this indescribable noise, then a deafening silence, then the screaming started.”

This week, Metodi’s children rushed to their grandmother’s house, which has a shelter. She took refuge under the stairwell in her apartment.

“There were too many bombs. The Iron Dome could not intercept all of them, and some got through. For the first time in a while, I was really afraid. Generally, we are immune to the rockets. It’s sad because it has become a way of life.”

The mother of three said her children had been seriously affected by the violence.

“It is a silent killer. My son has post-traumatic stress disorder, and has developed diabetes. It is unacceptable that we have to live like this. People of the south have had enough,” she said.

She is moving house because she can’t live without a bomb shelter anymore.

Veterinarian Louis Snipelisky, of Metar, which is one hour from Gaza near Beer Sheva, said the past few days were “very unpleasant”. He experienced two sirens on Monday afternoon at his workplace, the Beer Sheva Veterinary Hospital, which was very disruptive.

”The animals get very distressed by the sound of the sirens. We have only a short while to put some of them in cages while we dash for the shelter. Some vets were in the middle of surgery. It is very scary, you don’t know what to expect.

“The last time this happened, one of the dogs got so scared, it ran straight through a window.”

But for others in Ashkelon, it was life as usual. South African oleh Raphi Bloch said he would be more afraid to walk the streets of Johannesburg than be in his home town, which faced at least 30 to 40 rockets.

Bloch, who is chair of the Telfed regional committee in Ashkelon, said that while residents of the town remained “on full alert”, many got on with their lives and went about their daily chores.

“This has become part of daily life here,” said Bloch, who is also a member of the Israeli Defence Forces in a reservist unit.

“People are more upset about the ceasefire than the rockets. They are more upset about the fact that the government agrees to a ceasefire rather than following through and stopping this once and for all. The ceasefire gives Hamas the chance to regroup before it goes at it again.”

This week, schools and many businesses closed while the firing of rockets continued.

“But supermarkets were open, and people got on with their errands,” said Bloch, who is also involved in city search-and-rescue operations.

“It all depends on who you are. I have no young kids living with me at home; my kids are older and live in other parts of the country. For those with young children, it can be very disruptive. There are sirens going off, people dashing to safe rooms, and parents having to calm kids down.

“You see the missiles, you hear the sirens, you see and hear the missiles being shot down. But people carry on.”

South African oleh Dorron Klein of Telfed, said that during a flare-up it is stressful, but residents get fair warning.

“It is stressful, but the instructions from home command are clear. If people stay close to their safe rooms, they are fine.”

His daughter, Shaked Kline, lives 300m from the Gaza fence in Kibbutz Nachal Oz.

“She told me that they invited their friends over to sit with them in their safe room. They had quality time together since no one had work or university to go to.”

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