Yuval Salomon, farmer
I was born on the kibbutz and have been involved in farming all my life. My kibbutz and two other kibbutzim, Karmiya and Erez, jointly cultivate more than 21,000 dunams [about 5,250 acres]. We grow wheat, potatoes, carrots, sunflowers, corn, humus, cotton, and organic crops. More than 20 farmers work the land - six from Or Haner, a few from the other two kibbutzim, and hired laborers.
The mess began about seven or eight years ago. Before that, work was normal. It was quiet when we went to work and it was quiet when we returned. Then everything changed.
We try to ignore it, but every day, another Qassam falls. Even so, we keep going to work as if everything is okay. Some of our land borders with Gaza, we are close to Sderot, and what misses them reaches us. Every time a Qassam falls in the area, we all get worried and rush to make phone calls. We hear the booms, we hear the rockets land. Generally, the Qassams that reach here fall in the fields. Three Qassams have fallen inside the kibbutz, and dozens in the fields.
Last week, the situation got worse. Two people from the area were killed. We all knew them. Last Saturday, there were eight “color red” alerts. We feel that a rocket can fall anywhere. The house provides no protection. We have nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. So far, no one has left the kibbutz, but I think things might change after what happened this week. People are already going to sleep with their families outside the kibbutz. I heard that 200 pupils have left the area high school. The feeling here is that nobody is thinking about you, that nobody has any answers.
I have three children, two grown and one young, in the sixth grade. My eldest daughter is abroad now. My grown son is here and so is my young daughter. It's hard for the children to live in these conditions. Today, my young daughter asked me if we'd had a lot of Qassams today while she was at school. She usually goes to an afternoon class near Sderot, but on especially bad days, we don't let her go. We organize trips for all the children, to give them a chance to refresh themselves a bit.
We run our lives according to what each day brings. We aren't giving up, but it can't go on this way. In the meantime, my daughter doesn't say she wants to leave, but if somebody gets killed here, everything will change.
Two years ago, a Qassam fell on the house next door. Shrapnel flew into our bedroom and got wedged in the cupboard. We live in constant tension. At first, the Qassams were much less accurate. Now they have more sophisticated weapons.
If the state wants people to stay here, it will have to invest. There's an argument going on now about money for reinforcing [the buildings] - we're not sure they'll give us any. It's time the state started investing here like it does in the center of the country, so that people here can enjoy life like they do there.
[Defense Minister] Barak comes here each time something happens, but we feel that the government isn't doing anything. The prime minister is busy with investigations all day long. This country runs from Gadera [in the south-center of the country] to Hadera [in the north-center of the country], but that's nothing new. In the meantime, we haven't stopped working a single lot or dunam of farmland. But we all have a families at home and we're afraid.
I believe in peaceful action. The kibbutz once had workers from Gaza, they would come here every day. We recently understood that they wouldn't be coming back to work here, so we sent them severance pay. Our leaderships are not us. We just want to live.
Yuval Salomon, 50, married with three children, is a farmer and a resident of Kibbutz Or Haner. His testimony was given to Maayan Geva at Kibbutz Or Haner on 13 May 2008.