Israelis on the border with Gaza race to 'safe rooms' when sirens wail

The World
Adele Raemer's safe room in her home on a kibbutz in Nirim on Israel's border with Gaza.

Adele Raemer's daughter Lilach had planned a poolside wedding near Israel's border with Gaza this fourth of July. Then politics intervened.

As hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians flared in recent weeks with the killings of four teenagers, the family quickly realized they would have to change plans. So the couple reached out to their extended networks.

"We got lots and lots of different communities saying that they could have the wedding by their pool, or on their lawn, or in their gardens," says Adele Raemer. "And it was really very heartwarming. In times of stress, like we are in now, people really really come through for each other."

Raemer's major concern was that her daughter's wedding party would come under attack. She said her community calculates that they have about 10 seconds from when an alarm is sounded until the rocket explodes.

"Sometimes it's even less," she says. "The other day, four rockets fell in the kibbutz perimeter. You never really know, and sometimes you just hear an explosion and realize what it is and run for your safe room. ... [From] anyplace in the Gaza Strip, they can fire these short range mortars or rockets and get to us very easily."

Raemer's safe room is made of reinforced cement and, these days, it's where she spends every night.

The recent tensions remind her of similar flare-ups in 2009 and 2012. "When it happened in 2009, and I had just lost my husband a month before, I took my dogs and I left for about a week," she says.

This time, Raemer is hoping to stay put.

"This is my home. And you know what? Half of Israel is within rocket range now. If not more," she says. "It's also complicated because I do have two dogs and you can't just go anyplace with animals. Not every hotel is willing to take you."

Raemer says when the rockets are coming in from Gaza, she often thinks about the Israeli rockets landing on Palestinians. Residents there say they don't have time to escape, even if given a few minutes of warning.

"I think about it all the time," she says. "They don't have safe rooms. The situation there is dire. Really, my heart goes out to them." 

Asked how she thinks the conflict might end, Raemer says she's hoping ultimately the warring parties "will find a way to sit down to talk and listen."

"I do truly believe that if possibly anything good comes of this military action, it will be that the Hamas will be ready to sit down and say, 'Okay, you know what? Maybe you won't be such bad neighbors after all, let's sit down and talk,'" Raemer says.

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