On the eve of the Ninth of Av this year, members of Kibbutz Alumim took their traditional pre-fast meal out of the communal dining hall to safe rooms and bomb shelters.
“Since the ceasefire,” Kobi Tzur, treasurer of the kibbutz tells me, “There are more air sirens than ever before.”
The war continues to rage on the battlefield of the kibbutz, and throughout, locals are worried about the future of their kibbutz economy.
The story of Kibbutz Alumim embodies, to a great extent, the general situation for agricultural settlements near the Gaza border. Every morning, the kibbutz management (originating with a group of young Bnei Akiva kibbutzniks) receives labor instructions for the day’s agricultural work.
“Most of the kibbutz population is here throughout this war,” says Avi Appelbaum, head of the emergency team. “From time to time there are those who leave for some respite, but most of the population has stayed in place despite the difficulties.”
The central problem here is managing the kibbutz economy under fire, while kibbutz children are struggling with the fears of both tunnels and rockets.
But the kibbutz population in Alumim is strong and withstands the difficulties. “We believe that this is our home, and one doesn’t leave home so quickly. More than that, we are a religious kibbutz, and we believe that in addition to the Iron Dome, we have the dome of faith which protects us. Faith, as we have seen, strengthens us.”
Every dawn in the kibbutz, a daily bulletin outlines the security situation and the planned activities for the day, in an attempt to maintain routine. “We have a volunteer force of those members that were here with us in Alumim before, that return to help us. We have difficulties that are far from simple, and the most serious difficulty is dealing with the children. They can’t leave their daycares, and when they come home, they are locked inside.”
The kibbutz’s dairyfarm is one of the most well-regarded in the country, with part of its milk being sold to Tnuva, and about 3.5 million liters of milk produced annually by 350 cows. “We’re afraid about the cows, too, in some other kibbutzim rockets fell upon the cattle. Thank God we haven’t been hit thus far.”
The agricultural branch of the kibbutz grows carrots, potatoes, peanuts, and wheat hay. “Every day we receive a security update, informing us where we can work the lands and where we are advised to avoid. “The work has been seriously limited for three weeks already, in the fields closest to the border. It’s caused a lot of delay in harvest, and we shall have to see how we will manage the damages of the war.”
In the kibbutz there are also five packaging systems for agricultural produce: for carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pepper and also a system for organic produce. The systems sort and pack produce, and the final product is then certified globally by the BRC and shipped throughout the country and the world.
Addditionally in Alumim, there are 213 acres worth of avocado fields, another 185 acres of jojoba, and 80 of red and yellow peppers.
Kobi Tzur rushed to prepare for the fast of the Ninth of Av, alongside the other religious kibbutz members. Looking at their weary fields, it’s clear that immediately after Operation Protective Edge, plenty of hard work and replanting awaits.