Left: TV journalist Almog Boker Right: the Zikim neighborhood where he lives
Text and photographs: Lydia Aisenberg
Almog Boker, a popular television journalist covering Southern Israel for Channel 13 Israel News, has for the last eight years lived with his family in a new neighborhood developed at Kibbutz Zikim.
During a recent visit with a group of Lower Galilee avid evening television news followers to the kibbutz, situated on a hill between the most southern point in the border with Gaza and the outskirts of Ashkelon, Almog shared some of the many trials and tribulations of reporting from one of the most news sensitive areas in the country.
“After working for Ma’ariv for a period of time and moving over to the electronic media, my wife and I relocated from Beer Sheva to Zikim. I cannot emphasize enough how different it is to be reporting from a region when you are actually living in the midst of the unfolding and actual events and not just coming to see, film, report and go home elsewhere out of the conflict zone,” explained Almog, the father of a 7-year-old son and 5-year-old twins.
The abundant greenery surrounding the red roofed spacious homes of the new Zikim neighborhood stands out in sharp contrast to the narrow strip of sand dunes and beach between the homes and the all too inviting blue Mediterranean waters lapping the shore close by.
However, it was here that a few years ago heavily armed Hamas naval commandos emerged from the sea as dusk began to fall. Fortunately, the Palestinian raiders were quickly spotted by Israeli soldiers and all five insurgents killed before they could carry out their planned attack on the nearby Erez IDF base and checkpoint between Israel and Gaza.
“Until the 2014 Tzuk Eitan (Protective Edge) operation, Hamas was heading a bunch of guerrillas but nowadays leads a well trained army, a great deal of that training being seen and most definitely heard by the I.D.F. and the residents of the border area kibbutzim, moshavim and towns,” said Almog.
Since moving to Zikim and being part of the facts on the ground he previously came to report and leave behind at the end of a working day, Almog praised the residents of the Gaza border communities.
“Since physically living in the area I have met so many incredibly strong, dedicated and defiant people but have to say that lately I am beginning to see cracks in their resiliance. The rockets, and constant threat of hostilities in the so-called ‘quiet times’, the incendiary balloons and weekly threatening, noisy demonstrations of Palestinians near the fence are affecting people who are struggling to live a normal life under abnormal circumstances.
“However, having said that and also having heard from a number of people that they have had enough and are thinking of moving out of the area, there is not a single house or apartment empty in the communities along the border and the building of new homes continues in most places.
“When something happens I need to stay in order to report whatever is going on but you need to understand that my wife, during times of ‘red alerts,’ is absolutely terrified and always, and I mean always, has a packed suitcase ready in the car just in case ..,” he says, raising both his hands upward as if to say it is what it is.