Gaza Rocket That Hit Home in Southern Israel Reminds Residents That No One Is Safe

'It’s frustrating, once you start feeling optimistic, you get sent back to the crazy reality,' says Rina Cohen, whose house was hit

Rina Cohen in the living room of their house which was hit by a rocket from Gaza on Friday, November 1, 2019.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

This was the second time in the last decade that a rocket fell on Hamaccabim Street in Sderot, a city on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. Last time, the rocket landed a few dozen meters from the Cohen family’s home. But last Friday it was their turn – this time, it was their house that was damaged by rocket fire. “It’s frustrating, once you start feeling optimistic, you get sent back to the crazy reality,” Rina Cohen, the mother of the family, tells Haaretz.

The moments after a rocket hits are not foreign for the residents here: police cars and Magen David Adom ambulances; destruction, pieces of brick and concrete scattered on the floor; the holes in the side of the house and the living room wall shredded by shrapnel – this no longer surprises anyone. The Cohens, who are religious, say it was a miracle. A quick look at the living room wall gives the impression that if they hadn’t gone into their safe room, the pictures, comments and feelings would have been very different.

“Of course we’re sick of it, I’ve given up hope,” says Yafa Abuhatzeira, who lives next door to the Cohens. One of the family’s cars that was parked on the street is punched full of holes. Abuhatzeira says the footage from the security cameras she put in years ago to catch thieves would be a hot item for journalists, since they filmed the moment the rocket hit.

People point to the house hit by a rocket from Gaza next to a car that was damaged by shrapnel in Sderot on Saturday, November 2, 2019.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

“Should I sit now and complain about Bibi?” she says, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his nickname. “What does it matter anymore who is prime minister? The important thing is that they put an end to this situation.” Her husband Albert says the situation has become unbearable: “People don’t understand what we are going through in our hearts. Yesterday, during the siren, my son was at home. A 30-year-old who screamed hysterically out of fear. Does this sound normal to anyone?”

Rami and Rina Cohen have four children. He is a seasoned police officer at the Sderot police station. For him, too, the pictures are routine, but he was still filled with fear. Rina says they ran to the safe room, but because it’s small, the parents stood in the doorway. Then they heard a “big boom.” “We saw fire from the window. There was a lot of white light and smoke, we couldn’t breathe,” she says. A few seconds later, neighbors knocked on the door to see if they were all right.

The Cohens spent Friday night out of the house. Some went to friends, others to relatives in the city. “It was impossible to sleep here, everything smelled of smoke and explosives,” says one of their daughter. “There was a lot of fear, anxiety and panic. We felt we were at war,” says Rina.

On Saturday night, the family gathered back in their house. While Rina coordinates interviews for Sunday, curious neighbors stop by to see the damage and ask about the family. On Sunday, treasury officials will come to examine the damage and deal with compensation.