The mortar shell hit the roof of the Tragerman family home in the last days of fighting between Israel and Hamas. Their cars were already packed to flee, but it was too late for their 4-year-old son Daniel who lay on the floor dead.
Thousands fled Israel’s kibbutz communities during the 50-day conflict that turned the Gaza Strip and the border region inside Israel into a war zone, according to Kibbutz Movement, the group that represents the collectives and organized evacuations for those on the Gaza border. Most of them have since returned.
But after the death of Daniel, the Tragerman family said it won’t go back to the border.
Another dozen families from Kibbutz Nahal Oz, a few hundred feet from the edge of Gaza City, also say they won’t return and others in the community say they have plans to leave, worried that Israel can’t protect them.
“We are here because we don’t have any other choice,” said Gila Tragerman, Daniel’s mother. She was taking refuge at her mother’s home a 30-minute drive from Nahal Oz, out of mortar range.
“This is a situation that will never end and we don’t want to raise our children in it.”
Israel’s border communities have long been a flash point. While the major cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are in the center of the country, Israel’s southern fringe borders Gaza and is vulnerable to attack. During wars, the communities are the center of national attention. Between conflicts, politicians regularly make visits to highlight threats from Israel’s foes.
In September, top Hamas officials said they would hand over control of the borders to the Palestinian Authority—a longstanding demand of Israel, which controls the entry of materials that Gaza needs for its reconstruction. But Hamas has warned its militia would not stand down as part of the agreement, leaving open the possibility of future attacks.
While the Israelis who have chosen to leave the Gaza border region are only a small fraction of those who live there, they reflect a view among many Israelis that the government didn’t do enough to quash the ongoing threat posed by Hamas.
After Israeli ground troops withdrew from Gaza in August, some 54% of Israelis were against the pullout, according to polls, and 73% said they felt Israel’s ability to deter Hamas against attacks had weakened.
Roughly 2,100 Palestinians were killed during the brief war, according to the U.N. Israel said 73 Israelis died, most of them soldiers.