"If the option of celebrating at Degania did not exist, I suppose most people would leave here to be with family or friends, or would look for some other solution outside this area," said Kfar Aza member Varda Goldstein. "But we are looking for a solution that will keep people together. That way it's easier to overcome the situation."
Degania Alef, near the Sea of Galilee, spent yesterday preparing to receive their southern guests for the holiday, which starts this evening, including by cleaning and turning every possible space into rooms for the guests to sleep in.
"It's a connection that unfortunately has become a tradition," said Degania Alef secretary Shai Shoshani. "The situation is very difficult. We have the feeling we have already passed a certain point. On one hand, it's heartwarming to help friends from the south, but on the other hand, we would like it to have been under other circumstances. It's painful that right when the wheat is ready to harvest, they are being fired on and threatened. Residents of the Jordan Valley are showing solidarity out of an understanding of the situation that residents of the south are in."
Shoshani said the guests will be fully involved in the local celebration, taking part in the ceremony of the first fruits, the holiday meal and the kibbutz's traditional basketball tournament.
Funding to host the guests came from the Kibbutz Movement, which Goldstein said proves that "there is solidarity in the Kibbutz Movement. In contrast, I feel that the state has abandoned us."
On Friday - after Amnon Rosenberg, also killed in a mortar attack, was buried in Kibbutz Nirim - Kibbutz Movement Secretary General Gavri Bargil urged the government to do something to change the sorry security situation in communities near Gaza. "The mortar shells being fired at the border communities are destroying these communities, which have been left without protection," he said.
Bargil demanded that the cabinet make an immediate decision to either to launch a major military operation in Gaza or agree to a cease-fire with Hamas, whichever would best bring peace and quiet to the area.