'There's No Color Red in Ramat Gan'

The Shethal family from Kibbutz Kfar Aza split up last week. The father, Noam, stayed at the kibbutz. Mira and her three children - Rotem, Moran and Ela - moved in with the grandparents in Ramat Gan. The decision to split the family was made after a particularly bad day in which they never left the kibbutz's bomb shelter and mortars rained down.

After the death of Jimmy Kedoshim, who was killed by mortar fire in May, many families left the community. But the Shethals decided to stay. For them, Kfar Aza is not just a home with walls and beds; that's the message the parents sought to transmit to their children.

But last week Mira decided enough was enough, not least because the children were wandering around outside during the Hanukkah school break. "After that long Shabbat, which we spent in the shelters, we came home depressed and saw how all the scenarios we had envisaged were being played out," she says. "I realized that I couldn't go on like this."

Her husband Noam stayed at the kibbutz, where he is a member of both the directorate and emergency team. Mira misses normal family life. "I miss the kibbutz, my home and our social life," she says. "But I can't go back to the kibbutz and live with a feeling of helplessness."

The first thing Ela, who is 6 and a half, asked when she got to her grandparents' home was "where do you go when there's Color Red?" - the air raid warnings in the south. After it was explained to her that there is no such thing as Color Red in Ramat Gan, the girl pressed grandma: "Then what do you do when there are Qassams?" Told that there are no Qassam rockets in Ramat Gan, either, she summed up: "Then all you have are mortars."

An hour's drive away, Noam explains why he decided to stay. "This is my home and I have a commitment to it. I am also looking at the day after and at the importance of the ongoing maintenance of the kibbutz, so my wife and friends will have a place to come back to," he says.

"At first I didn't like the idea so much, but when I saw that the situation was getting worse I understood that there was no point in taking unnecessary risks. If there were a normal routine of life here, maybe I would not be willing to have them go, but once that was no longer the case I could understand the decision."

Five days of quiet

For 10 single-parent families from Sderot, eight days of Qassam rocket volleys during Hanukkah ended with a miracle. On the last day of the holiday the Green Beach Hotel in Netanya invited them to enjoy five days of quiet. Yesterday evening the lobby was abuzz with families.

Etty Levy-Malka came to the hotel with her five children: Motti, 16, the 14-year-old twins Shoval and Ofek, Uriel, 10 and Elihon, 6. Carrying loads of candies and Hanukkah doughnuts, she paused to describe what they went through during the holiday week. "For the whole of Hanukkah we were bombarded with Qassams," she says. "I felt everything. You see the Qassam, the smoke, the cars blowing up, the hysteria - all live. I was in shock - this is real, you see the size of the Qassam, the hole it made, and you're dazed."

Her children called to find out where she was and found her. "While she was running she sat down in the street and couldn't move," Shoval recalls. According to Etty: "I felt chills and was afraid, my legs trembled." The children were uneasy throughout Shabbat, she says, "as though they felt there was going to be an explosion. Not a half hour passed before we heard the booms.

"It was appalling. It was a horrible Shabbat. I don't remember anything like it since I've been there." She decided to leave. "I went to the organizer and told her, 'Now you are going to arrange something for me.' It's an insane way to live. Like the Wild West. It's like we're sitting ducks."

Now, she says, "we can go into Netanya calmly. We'll go to the mall, to the beach without fear. We will ignore everything. I don't want to know what's going on there. I'll cut off the phone. I want to relax with my family because I know that on Friday I'm going back to that other reality."

According to Motti, 16: "We didn't ask for much - only to live in our town quietly, peacefully, like any normal resident."