For over two weeks, residents of southern Israel have been living far removed from their homes, feeling like refugees in their own country, and many say there is no end in sight.
“We came here because there is no safe place in Israel, but in the south we lost our entire life. We want our children to have some peace,” said Sderot resident Yitzhak Yifrach, a father of three.
“The south is not abandoned, our home is not abandoned, the country failed in our security and now we all have to pay for it. The peace we have here is like a bandage. I’m not looking for a bandage, I’m looking for a real sense of security for my family. As a father, I want to take care of my children,” he said.
The family is now staying in a school dormitory in Rishon LeTzion, in central Israel.
His wife Esther added, “The children are in great distress, and there’s a feeling that we are refugees and helpless.”
Some 126,000 residents of communities near the Gaza and Lebanon borders have been evacuated to central Israel, and are living in guest houses, hotels, or with families. Many were evacuated by the state, but others opted to leave on their own.
Overall, some 250,000 Israelis have been displaced by the war so far.
The prolonged displacement is taking a toll on families.
Ina, a mother of three from Ashkelon, said, “My youngest daughter can’t go to the bathroom alone, she cries all the time.”
She and her children are staying in the same student dormitory, but without her husband, who she said is an essential worker.
“I have to deal with my children’s trauma alone,” Ina said.
“I’m sure we’ll come back. My children want to return home to school and their friends. This is our home, and we won’t give up on it,” she added.