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On Gaza’s border, kibbutzniks keep on rocking amid the rocket fire

An Israeli Iron Dome missile fires to intercept a rocket from Gaza Strip in the costal city of Ashkelon, Israel, on July 5, 2014.

TSAFRIR ABAYOV/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Checking out the Israeli front lines around Gaza for signs of an imminent military ground invasion today, I stumbled on a concert by one of Israel's most popular singers, Rami Kleinstein, in one of the most unlikely venues.

He was performing underground at the Nahal Oz kibbutz, which is just metres from the border of Gaza, due east of Gaza City. His audience was group of about 50 mostly older kibbutzniks who were thrilled to have him play for them to break up the monotony of their day.

Mr. Kleinstein was there, he said, to show solidarity with the people in the line of fire.

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It was an old-fashioned kibbutzz gathering, people greeting each other ‎(and even this strange journalist) warmly; women carried in cakes they had just baked.

Throughout the afternoon concert, rockets could be heard (above ground) taking off from inside Gaza and heading north or northeast to their Israeli targets.

They leave a white vapour trail as they streak across the sky‎ – the cruder ones heading for closer targets, leave an erratic trail. More sophisticated rockets leave a higher straighter trail.

Accompanying some of them, you can hear the booming sound of a defensive Iron Dome missile‎ hitting the rockets sent by Hamas or some other militant group.

The danger in Nahal Oz comes more from mortar shells than anything else.

One woman explains that there's no time to sound an alarm; you hear the shell coming and there's ‎no chance to take cover.

"We mostly stay inside," says Dan Saliman, originally from Denver, Colo., who has been here for 44 years. "I spent the first 30 working in the cow shed," he said proudly.

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"You know the movie Groundhog Day?" he asked, referring to the film about a man repeating the same day over and over. "That's how it feels to me here. Every couple of years, there's another war like this one. I'm tired of them. It's time the army went in and took care of Hamas once and for all."

It's a common theme heard in these parts.

"I sympathize with the people of ‎Gaza," he said, "and I don't like sending in the ground troops, but it has to be done."

Also heard above ground is the much louder sound of tanks just outside the kibbutz firing on targets inside Gaza.

"I have to take sleeping pills at night," Mr. Saliman said. "The windows rattle so much, you think the tank is firing from our patio." It almost is.

"You know the most tedious thing about this war," he said, "is that every day I hear from our kids: 'Dad, it's not safe there, come stay with us.' They even get our grandchildren to try to persuade us to leave.

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"We're just fine and we're going to stay where we are," he said, as he and his neighbours filed in to the concert.

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About the Author
Global Affairs reporter

As Global Affairs Writer, Patrick Martin’s primary focus is on the turbulent Middle East, to which he travels regularly. He has twice been posted to the region – from 1991-95 and from 2008-12. More

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