[Kibbutz Nir Am was founded in 1943, at the place of the water sources of the Negev – db]

Twenty-eight houses belonging to the generation of the country’s founders and those who established Kibbutz Nir-Am were damaged by Kassam rocket fire during the cease-fire. The ten Kassam rockets that were fired last Friday, and that struck communities in the western Negev, were not enough to cause a loud echo in the government, but a decision was made on Kibbutz Nir-Am. For the first time, the kibbutz’s inhabitants have decided to leave, even at the price of dividing families.

The rockets shattered windows and doors on the kibbutz, compelling elderly people of eighty years old and up, those who founded the state, to leave their homes in the freezing cold. Yet, more than anything, the rocket shattered their faith. The kibbutz’s secretary, Avi Kadosh, held an emergency meeting with psychologists and a social worker last night in order to decide how to help the inhabitants whose homes were damaged and tell them how to take cover during a warning, since no houses on the kibbutz are reinforced.

“The government is completely ignoring the reinforcement of houses,” Kadosh said. “They do not even have a reinforcement plan. That is because they do not live here.”

Israeli MK Shai Hermesh (Kadima), who lives on nearby Kibbutz Kfar Aza, was summoned urgently to the kibbutz members’ meeting. After the meeting, Hermesh announced that he would not support the state budget until funding was found to reinforce the inhabitants’ houses.

The Kassam rocket fire has also begun to chase away many students who live on the kibbutz because of its proximity to Sapir College. “We have young couples who left the kibbutz,” Kadosh said. “One couple left immediately after they had a child. Another couple split-the mother left the country with the two younger children and the father stayed on the kibbutz with the two older children. And there is another couple about to split.”

Kibbutz Nir-Am is not alone in its fears. “We need to take advantage of the cease-fire to reinforce the communities,” said Udi Naamati, the director of the Eshkol regional council. “We cannot keep relying on miracles and trusting that the rockets will not kill people.”

“The government has buried its head in the sand,” Alon Schuster, the director of the Shaar Hanegev regional council, wrote in a sharply-worded statement that he issued. “What else must happen in order for the government to realize that we are in a state of emergency?”

While Israel investigates the use of cluster bombs during last summer’s Lebanon War, two Belgian soldiers from the UN forces were seriously wounded over the weekend after they evidently tried to clear away remnants of an Israeli cluster bomb in the village of Majdal Salem.