Ronit Greengold, a resident of Merkaz Kafri Mevo’im, wears several “hats,” and her husband, who serves as an officer in the IDF, runs a military clinic. Ronit works as a volunteer and runs Jewish Agency activities as part of a Partnership with the MetroWest New Jersey community. She runs “Family Friday,” a community “Kabbalat Shabbat” event (marking the beginning of the Sabbath) for her region, and she is also involved in helping the community during times of emergency. She is an eloquent, redheaded mother of four, who gets emotional when she tells me about the Shabbat when she had to make the switch from being a host to being a guest.
“When the emergency situation first began,” she tells me, “I received a request at the Partnership ─ for us to be hosted by the Tzahar Partnership (from Tzfat, Hatzor Haglilit and Rosh Pina). We went there, approximately three families. I went to the meeting with my four children and my husband. There are many people in the region who are anxious about traveling, and I know someone whose daughter literally suffers from anxiety attacks when she hears the Code Red siren, but nonetheless I felt that it was necessary for us to leave the house for this opportunity. Generally speaking, in normal times, we host missions, but this time we were forced to be the guests and we felt uncomfortable. However, our discomfort dissolved and the ice broke right away.
The conversation with Ronit took place at a “breather” that the Jewish Agency ran in Nachshonit, near Rosh Ha’ayin. The members of the Regional Council were hanging out next to the buses on their way to the “breather.” The children seemed calm, but when I mentioned this to Ronit, she said to me, “There are many children who become anxious. There are some who understand the situation and understand that there is no choice, that if we want to continue to live, we need to overcome the current situation ─ once and forever. I have a small son who said to me, ‘Mommy, I know the meaning of the word Azaka [siren]: Aza [Gaza] and Makot [causing injury].’ He is small, but in our region, the kids have been living this way for many years.”
At the “breather,” parents and children are sitting around on chairs. One of them is Gali Shachaf, whose story is typical of the experiences of residents living in the region under fire. Gali Shachaf runs a dormitory for at-risk teens, and she came to the “breather” with her husband and children. She lives in Nir Akiva and travels every day to the dormitory in Ashdod. Her husband, an insurance agent, has been taking care of the children because his office does not have a shelter, and as a result he has to work from home. “I decided that I need to take a day of vacation to be with my children, but I am in touch with my ‘second family,’ with the children and counselors in Ashdod, who are under fire. I am here, but I am constantly receiving the updates from there. Here, just a minute ago, they told me that there was a Code Red siren in Ashdod, and it ended OK. Do you know that the minute I got here, I started looking for a place where I would be able to hide with the children, if there is a Code Red siren here?”
The director of the Partnership Netivot-Sedot Negev - Philadelphia, Tsachi Levi, says that, as long as it continues to be possible, it is a real privilege to allow residents to relax ─ even if it is only for a short period of time ─ in a quieter place.