Residents of the Eshkol regional council in the northwestern Negev, close to Israel’s border with Gaza, woke up yesterday at 6:59 a.m. to an alarm indicating incoming projectiles from the terrorist organization next door. As they went ahead with their morning routine, 24 consecutive alarms rang out in quick succession, heralding the worst day of Hamas rocket attacks in four years, with more than 100 such attacks launched in the span of 24 hours.
And while most of these rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system, a few hit civilian communities in the country’s south, like Tova Ludmer Gigi’s kindergarten. It was hit just several minutes before the children arrived. And while they were overwhelmed to find the remains of a rocket in their playground, Gigi assured them that it was all right.
“I told the kids our kindergarten is the safest place in existence,” she told reporters later in the day. “They know that in case of danger at home they run to the safe room, and here the entire place is reinforced.”
Gigi asked concerned parents to refrain from calling her cellphone throughout the day, telling them that while she understood their concern, she wanted to make sure she spent all her time and energy soothing the children. She did, however, make one exception, taking a call from Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, who asked to be put on speakerphone and address the kids.
Lucy Orshhovsky, whose 5-year-old daughter attends Gigi’s kindergarten, told the Israeli press that her child “isn’t that frazzled” by the attack. “We’re used to it,” she said. “It’s part of our routine… Still, today could’ve ended very differently, so there’s a bit of an unpleasant feeling.”
And while many Israelis and Palestinians were gearing up for another round of fighting this morning, the border seems to be quiet, with officials on both sides grateful for the de-escalation. Speaking with the the Israeli website Ynet, several Palestinian officials residing in the Gaza Strip speculated that the limited scope of Hamas’s attack has to do with the organization’s ebbing popularity. “They haven’t paid anyone salaries in more than a year and a half,” said Sami Obeid, a journalist. “If elections were held in Gaza today, I don’t think Hamas would win more than 10 percent.”
Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.