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Men sob on each other’s shoulders in a tight embrace. A woman walks arm in arm with a girl, lamenting the “hit after hit, hit after hit,” that southern Israel has absorbed in the days and years before that Friday afternoon.
The weeping continues while a Chabad rabbi, Yaakov Shvika, eulogizes Amsalem – “a great wound, an incredible wound.”
Minutes after Kiryat Malachi’s mayor, Moti Malka, takes the podium, another siren blares. Mourners scramble in the crowded building. Most take cover once more under the roof and against its only walls.
The chaos only grows after the rocket from Gaza explodes in the distance. After the siren, it seems the sadness has turned to rage.
“Disengagement criminals!” scream the men who had been crying, turning their curses against those who led Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the so-called disengagement, into a chant.
Calls for silence add to the cacophony.
“Conquer the strip!” the men yell, obscuring the rest of Malka’s eulogy for Amsalem.
Quiet returns by the time Likud Party Knesset member Michael Eitan, a Cabinet minister, addresses the crowd. But the mood has not changed.
While Eitan declares that the terrorists “want to rain fear on us, but they won’t succeed,” the chants of the crowd and the sound of the siren linger in the air. For the roomful of mourners, the next rocket is not far away.