Rosie’s rock­ets

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - OBSERVATIO­NS - BAR­BARA SOFER

Here’s Rosie’s Face­book post from May 30: “Just want to let every­body out there to know I can’t sleep! All of Otef Aza [the Gaza pe­riph­ery] is un­der at­tack. In all 17 years of be­ing at­tacked, we have never had a night like this.

That night 100 “pro­jec­tiles” – mean­ing rock­ets and mor­tars – were fired at Is­raeli tar­gets. Sirens warn­ing Is­raelis of strikes were trig­gered at least 166 times.

I can’t re­veal ex­actly where Rosie lives or her last name, be­cause her kib­butz is fre­quently tar­geted. Why give suc­cor and in­tel to the en­emy? “Otef Aza” means the part of Is­rael that hugs the Gaza Strip.

“I’m not on the first line,” she says. That’s be­cause she lives 3.5 km. away, as the kite flies.

And the kites do fly. Just last week, a kite with an ex­plo­sive de­vice landed in the kib­butz school­yard.

“The chil­dren, who were smart enough not to go near it, re­ported it,” says Rosie.

That’s why you may not have heard of it. A sap­per was sum­moned to defuse the charges. The kib­butz mem­bers re­ceived a friendly What­sApp to re­mind their chil­dren never to touch kites or balloons.

Rosie, an artist, and her hus­band, Ron, an econ­o­mist, made aliya from Cal­i­for­nia, af­ter grad­u­at­ing from UCLA and grad­u­ate school at the Univer­sity of Chicago. They’re both chil­dren of Holo­caust sur­vivors, Rosie’s late fa­ther the sole sur­vivor of a fam­ily of 45. Mov­ing to Is­rael was al­ways their dream. They set­tled in Jerusalem and opened a desk­top pub­lish­ing busi­ness, us­ing Ap­ple tech­nol­ogy so new that it took a while to get the space bar to work.

They of­ten ex­changed vis­its with fel­low im­mi­grants who’d moved to a kib­butz. On one visit Ron said he pre­ferred the bu­colic set­ting and serene kib­butz life to the city. They were ac­cepted for mem­ber­ship, and 25 years ago moved their busi­ness and their five sons south. Their sixth son was born there.

The Jerusalem neigh­bor­hood of Baka, where they’d lived, ex­pe­ri­enced a spate of fa­tal stab­bings by ter­ror­ists in 1990 while the chil­dren were wait­ing for their school bus, so they’d been ex­posed to ter­ror­ism.

But Rosie vividly re­mem­bers the first boom on the kib­butz. She was rid­ing an adult tri­cy­cle with her kinder­gart­ner on a scooter.

“My son just froze,” she said. “We con­tin­ued to his nurs­ery school, where all the kids were frozen in fear.”

De­spite the hun­dreds of ex­plo­sions on the kib­butz that fol­lowed, that son never for­got the first boom. Many years later, when he was a tank gun­ner in the IDF, he had to con­front a ter­ror­ist with an RPG. He called his par­ents af­ter­ward to say that he had fi­nally had a “cor­rec­tive emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence” for the help­less­ness he’d felt as a lit­tle boy.

One son, a mu­si­cian, can’t con­trol a trem­bling in his arm when he is per­form­ing and the sirens go off. An­other son tells her about night­mares where Nazis and Gazans blend into a sin­gle en­emy from whom he has to de­fend the kib­butz.

Rosie, 65, spends part of her day work­ing with older per­sons on the kib­butz who pub­lish fab­ric chil­dren’s books. She has a rich reper­toire of rocket sto­ries. There was the time, for in­stance, when a neigh­bor’s dog was so fright­ened he jumped into the clothes drier. Like many of the res­i­dents, the dog was pre­scribed what Rosie calls “happy pills,” tran­quil­iz­ers for chronic anx­i­ety.

Ex­tin­guished kites dec­o­rate the av­o­cado or­chards and rolling fields of car­rot tops.

“Beep­ers don’t work where we are, but the app on our smart­phones sounds the alarms. We used to be warned when rock­ets fell any­where in the re­gion, but now the alarms are more so­phis­ti­cated and spe­cific for our kib­butz,” she says.

The boys have grown up. Now Rosie’s mom, Ja­nine, lives with them in their kib­butz bun­ga­low. Born in Ber­lin, she re­mem­bers the trauma of Kristall­nacht. Dur­ing World War II, she spent two years in hid­ing and the rest in con­cen­tra­tion camps. Her fu­ture hus­band, a for­mer Sat­mar Has­sid who had served in the Hun­gar­ian army and sur­vived two POW camps, saw her walk­ing down the street in France af­ter the war and pre­dicted that he would marry her. They had no com­mon lan­guage and in­vited a friend to chap­eron and in­ter­pret. Rosie was born in Paris. Their fam­ily jour­ney took them first to Ken­tucky, where they owned a kosher butcher shop, and then started over again in Los Angeles, so Rosie, their only child, could grow up in a more re­li­giously ob­ser­vant com­mu­nity.

Rosie and Ron have moved their bed­room into the re­in­forced cham­ber added

De­spite the hun­dreds of ex­plo­sions on the kib­butz that fol­lowed, Rosie’s son never for­got the first boom

to their home in re­cent years. When the rock­ets fall at night, they have to make a quick de­ci­sion about whether to wake up Grandma Ja­nine. “There have been lots of in­juries of older peo­ple on their way to safe rooms,” Rosie says.

On May 30, the rock­ets fell all day. Grandma Ja­nine, who joined them in the safe room, made up a ditty about the rock­ets fall­ing: “Bitty boom, bitty boom, here we go again,” de­ter­mined to cheer up her­self and fam­ily as they waited out the rocket fire.

Rosie isn’t an­gry at the gov­ern­ment. “We know the gov­ern­ment and the IDF are do­ing their best, and that this is hard. There aren’t al­ways so­lu­tions.”

They aren’t leav­ing.

“Why should we?” she says. “I look out at my gar­den and know this is the most beau­ti­ful place in the world.”

She’s planted gera­ni­ums, pas­sion flow­ers and bougainvil­lea. The scent of jas­mine dom­i­nates. Her old­est grand­daugh­ter (at last a girl!) has asked Grandma if she can get mar­ried when she grows up. She’s seven.

“I as­sure her that she can,” says Rosie. “By then, the gar­den will be even more beau­ti­ful. I wake up ev­ery day and thank God for let­ting me live in Is­rael and in this Gar­den of Eden. Yes, it’s the Gar­den of Eden to me.”

(Pho­tos: Courtesy)

A POOCH takes shel­ter in a wash­ing ma­chine dur­ing a rocket at­tack.

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