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Ruti Ben Abu, 56, describes how a Qassam rocket directly hit her home in Sderot, southern Israel, 14 July 2014

Ruth Ben Abu
Ruth Ben Abu

It was the third time a Qassam rocket directly hit our family. The first was about five years ago, when a rocket hit my brother's house. Three years ago, a rocket hit my parents' house. I'm lucky that the damage to my house was relatively minor.

Last Monday, 14 July 2014, I came home from the summer camp I work in. I came back from work and lay down for a rest in my TV corner, which three meters away from the safe room.

Because of the location of my house, I don't always hear the rocket alerts. In my sleep, I heard something whistling through the sky. I wasn't sure if it was a rocket or a defense missile sent to divert a rocket, but I stood up. A few seconds later, my beeper started sounding the alarm and I went into the safe room with my little dog, who has anxiety attacks. Then I heard four barrages. I heard the rockets land very loudly, and it was so strong that the safe room shook. I heard the tremor of the blast and glass shatter. I was shaking and couldn't move. When I went out, I saw that the blast had blown the door in. Bits of glass and shrapnel and plaster were scattered everywhere. I called the police and at the same time called my son, who called my husband, and they both came.

I was out of it. I couldn't make sense of what was going on around me. I was in shock. I was there physically, but that's it. I can't say how long it lasted, I guess 15-20 minutes, but then with all the people and the policemen – I really don't know.

After the phone call I don't remember much. Policemen and property tax representatives came. The house was damaged and the car was full of holes caused by shrapnel. That was the first day, more or less. Then a whole other story began: difficulty breathing, crying, nausea, and other symptoms caused by anxiety. With everything that's going on, after 14 years living in fear of rockets, with my family's trauma and my personal trauma, the cherry on the icing is that I now have to negotiate with the property tax appraisers.

It's been eight days now since the rocket hit my home. The windows still haven't been fixed; the car was fixed thanks to the fact that it's a long-term rental, and I got it back yesterday. It's not huge damage, it all amounts to about 15,000 shekels, yet no one has taken the trouble to come and fix it. I think the property tax people are making an effort, and the problem is with the appraisal.

I want things to go back to the way they were, because I've been sleeping without windows for a week. In the last three days, whenever the army did something [in Gaza], the walls shook and I was afraid the house would collapse because everything's broken, in every sense of the word. I do want to mention the psychologist from the "Hosen" center, who arrived within half an hour. She came in and treated me and was very pleasant. She stayed about two and a half hours. She's still in touch with me and came over again. Today, I texted her that I've had a rough day and she's going to come over. There's a lot of understanding and empathy and comforting.

I keep having ups and downs. The developments over the last few days have added to my anxiety. As I'm talking to you, I feel very weak, my pulse is racing, and I'm terrified of terrorists entering [Israel] through tunnels – a new existential fear that just makes things worse.

After the rocket hit my home, I didn't work for two days. Then, I decided that for my own health, it would be better to go back to routine, so I was at the summer camp with the six and seven year olds, who give me strength. We took them outside and then there were two-three barrages of rockets in a row. I felt I couldn't be with the children. I went into the staff room shaking and crying, because it affected my mental condition.

I hope the children didn't see me like that. I hope so very much, although one of the girls hugged me and asked, "Ruti, are you having anxiety? I think I saw a Qassam land by your house".

The children give me a lot of strength. I'm the one who's supposed to protect them, but they give me the strength. This is the only reality they know – anxiety, safe rooms and rocket alerts.

Ruti Ben Abu, 56, a teacher and married mother of three, lived in Sderot, southern Israel. She gave her testimony by phone to Roi Grufi, on 22 July 2014


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