The following article was written by ECAJ Co-CEO Peter Wertheim. It was originally published by the World Jewish Congress.
Introducing Noga – 8 years old
World Jewish Congress
June 29, 2018
Permit me to introduce you to 8-year old Noga and her Mum. They and the rest of their family live on kibbutz Nahal Oz in Israel, only about 800 meters from the Gaza security barrier. Both Noga and her mother were born on the kibbutz. The photo was taken when I visited the kibbutz on Tuesday, 26 June 2018.
The kibbutz is not a “settlement”. It is not located on land that the UN refers to as the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”. The land on which Nahal Oz stands was not captured by Israel during the 1967 war. It has been part of Israel since the establishment of the State in 1948. Even the UN and various anti-Israel NGOs don’t dispute that this is sovereign Israeli territory.
Yet for many years Noga and her mother and the other residents of Nahal Oz have been under constant rocket fire, among other forms of attack, from Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza. Tuesday was no exception. Within hours after the photo was taken, 13 rockets were fired into southern Israel from Gaza. Noga and her family slept in the bomb shelter, as they have done on many nights previously. Like any 8-year old girl, she finds the experience frightening. She can’t understand why anyone would try to kill her and her family.
And they have tried many times. Often rockets from Gaza are fired into Nahal Oz at precisely 7:00am. Why 7:00am? That’s the time when the kindergarten and the crèche open. In 2014, 4-year-old Daniel Triggerman was killed by one of these rockets when it struck his home in Nahal Oz.
Over the last month Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have found ingenious new ways to try to harm Noga, her family and community. They have been sending over kites and inflated condoms rigged with incendiary devices which have set fire to hundreds of hectares of crops and to other areas in southern Israel, depriving wildlife of their natural habitat. I could smell the pungent smell of burnt vegetation when I visited the area on Tuesday. It was the same familiar smell as that of a bushfire in Australia, and the damage caused by the kite fires was just as devastating.
Only rarely can you read about any of this in the western media. They certainly wont tell you personal stories like that of Noga and her mother. Yet these things have been happening on an almost daily basis.
The latest attacks began before the so-called “Gaza massacre” on May 15. One week earlier, in a blood-curdling speech, Hamas leader Yayha Sinwar openly boasted about what the so-called “peaceful protests” of the “March of Return” were really all about when he declared:
“Our people and our boys will surprise the entire world with what they have in store. Let them wait for our big push. We will take down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies.”
The “big push” on the barrier on May 15 was thus clearly pre-planned and orchestrated by the Hamas leadership. Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahhar openly admitted that claims that the protests were a form of “peaceful resistance” against Israel were “a clear terminological deception.”
Hamas printed maps for its operatives indicating the civilian population centres within Israel situated only a few hundred meters from the barrier which their terrorists were to attack if the attempts to breach the barrier had been successful. One of the targets was Nahal Oz.
Hamas also disseminated detailed directives via social media ahead of the May 15 violence at the barrier. These directives went so far as to name the Israeli towns and communities in which each terrorist leader would be delivering victory speeches after the protests had achieved their stated goals. Nahal Oz was one of the named communities. The number of deaths would thus have been vastly higher if Hamas had succeeded in its aim of breaching the border and sending thousands of Gazans storming into civilian population centres in Israel. Noga and her Mum would have been among those whose hearts would have been torn from their bodies if Hamas’s plans had succeeded. This should not come as a surprise to anybody who knows what Hamas really is – a genocidal organisation whose Charter openly declares that its aim is to “obliterate” Israel.
So you might perhaps wonder why Noga’s parents and the other members of the kibbutz keep living on Nahal Oz. The number of new people coming to live in Nahal Oz keeps growing. These are brave, tough people, and I was proud to spend a day with them as a small token of solidarity. Yet I kept wondering, why don’t they take their children to live somewhere safer. As a father and a grandfather that is the question that nagged at me, and I asked them that very question.
The answer I received was emphatic. As I noted at the outset, Noga and her Mum were both born on the kibbutz. It is their home. And they are not going anywhere.
Peter Wertheim is co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.