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Home is wherever I'm with you

Zoe Sages moved to Israel in 2006 with FZY-Garin Tzabar from London. Married to Alon and a mum of 3, Zoe is the Director of HR for Sasa Software. Zoe graduated from Reichman University with an MA in Political Marketing and BA in Government, Diplomacy and Strategy as an Argov Fellow.

On October 7th, 2023, we awoke startled to the news of the events in southern Israel. The reality of the horrors were quick to make the rounds on the TV news and social media, and despite the tension in the air when I walked around our home that same Saturday in Kibbutz Sasa, less than 2 miles from the border with Lebanon, in my heart I was still adamant that the atrocities we were seeing from the south were unlikely to creep into our idyllic community. Unfortunately, my head said otherwise. That night my 3 children slept with us, and we spent the following morning packing our bags as we understood that the northern border communities were packing up and evacuating.

On October 8th I left Kibbutz Sasa with my 3 kids in flip flops, one suitcase, with enough summer clothes for a week, and took our passports and valuables and headed to the centre of the country to try and work out our next move. As we left the Kibbutz, I could not believe my eyes. Our peaceful community on the top of Mount Meron was suddenly full of hundreds of IDF soldiers and military tanks and equipment. As the tears rolled down my face, we wound down the windows to thank the soldiers for looking after our homes and left not knowing when and to what we would return.

After a few days in Netanya, I decided that that I would take the kids to London and give them some “normality”.  The Jewish Community in London (Many ex FZY) rallied around the evacuees and collected warm clothes and toys and organised a free camp for the children. After a month of staying, one week at a time, with wonderful family and friends, we decided to return to our evacuated community in Israel and my husband Alon came to pick us up and bring us back to Israel.

The government and the IDF had meanwhile declared Kibbutz Sasa as officially evacuated on October 20th, this meant the members of the Kibbutz were able to move as many residents as possible to a hotel and bring the community back together. The Kibbutz chose to move to the Maagan Holiday Village which resembles a Centre Parcs style residence on the shores of the Kinneret, south of Tiberias and belongs to the neighboring Kibbutz Maagan.

We moved into our new accommodation which for a family of 5 is 'cramped' to say the least, one bedroom, a lounge with 3 pull-out sofas for the kids and a mini kitchenette. Most of our cooking is done outside on the windowsill in our make-shift outdoor kitchen which includes a toaster oven and ninja!

For Sasa, being a traditional Kibbutz there were many elements of our everyday life that were vital to set up here in our microcosm community. Firstly, the dining room, including shifts (Toranut), the education system, the health clinic, the post, laundry and nearly everything that would make life from young to old feel as normal as possible.

The education system, like any kibbutz, is at the heart of the community and from the start the hotel gave us every room available to use for our needs. The nursery was set up in the hotel bomb shelter, the school in the lobby and the hotel synagogue. At first it was for a couple of hours each day but slowly but surely, we were provided more spaces from both the hotel and the kibbutz next door, and each year group now has a classroom setting and extended learning. The Brother in Arms NGO came in and did an amazing make-over of all the nursery classrooms including bringing toys and equipment, and the children have their usual teachers and friends creating a sense of stability and certainty which is obviously so important for them in these times.

One of the most challenging aspects of living in a hotel despite the lack of space and privacy has been that of laundry. When we first arrived, there were only 3 washing machines for 500 people, which created chaos. We have since acquired more and got used to the system of setting timers and reminders so as not to be late for the next person.

Kibbutz Sasa has always put an emphasis on innovation, commitment, drive and being part of the start up nation. For a small community we have made big waves in the defense industry with our established armored vehicle factory Plasan Sasa, our cyber-security company Sasa Software, as well as Sasa Tech, Buza our joint Arab-Jewish ice cream factory initiative, and of course our famous agriculture; growing apples, kiwis and avocados.


Due to the traditional social nature of our community, it relies on all of us to go out to work and continue to advance the continued economic success of our businesses. From the start of this war, Our main businesses were recognised as vital organizations and as such our staff from within and outside the community have continued coming to the kibbutz for work despite the heightened situation.

I travel to Sasa once a week for work and in between work remotely from our new office that we have set up in response to the situation at the Kinneret Innovation Centre. This was another important step for our evacuated staff as it allowed them to leave their hotel rooms and 'go to the office', again providing a sense of normality in very chaotic times.

Located opposite the renowned Air Force base on the top of Mount Meron, Sasa often has sirens and rockets over our heads aimed for the base; and sometimes aimed at Sasa itself. Late November 2023 our high-school auditorium was hit by an anti-tank missile causing huge damage while during Shavuot we woke up to more anti-take missiles, as well as rockets falling in our orchards and causing fires threatening our homes and livelihoods.

The last 8 months have tested us all on many levels, nationally, locally as a community and individually as families. I often drop off my kids for school at the hotel lobby and think how did we get here; how have I been living in a hotel for 8 months and most importantly how long can we go on like this?

My kids have been home to Sasa twice in the last 8 months to visit for less than half a day, they miss their beds, their rooms, their toys, the fresh mountain air and freedom to run around.  I don't have answers right now for them on when they will return and to what they will return to. What I do tell them repeatedly is they are loved, safe and supported in their family, community and country and for me, home is wherever I'm with you.


By Zoe Sages


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