Hours before the IDF launched Operation Pillar of Defense, dignitaries descend
on Sderot and other southern communities to lend moral support and comfort, and
in some cases also to campaign for the Knesset elections.
The latter did
not apply to President Shimon Peres or Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes, chairwoman of the
Israeli branch of UNICEF, when they paid separate visits to Sderot on
Nir-Mozes, a mother of five, had been contacted by former
Sderot mayor Eli Moyal, who told her the area’s children were going through so
many traumatic experiences that they desperately needed cheering up.
thought that toys would do the trick, and Nir-Mozes responded
On Tuesday she arrived in Sderot with huge sacks of toys for
distribution, saying that with Hanukka just around the corner it was the ideal
time for gift-giving.
Peres, who has been to Sderot several times and was
there a few years ago when a rocket was fired into the area, has some inkling of
what the residents of Sderot are experiencing.
He developed an even
better understanding on Wednesday when meeting with children in concrete bomb
shelters. Sitting in the uncomfortable quarters, Peres asked the youngsters
about their fears and how they were coping with the uneasy situation.
everyone present was glad to see him.
A teacher whose home had been
destroyed by a rocket wanted Peres to apologize for having told Knesset
journalists six years ago, while still vice premier, that he couldn’t understand
all the hysteria about Kassam rockets. After all, Kiryat Shmona had been shelled
Peres opted not to enter into any argument.
One of the
students, fourth-grader Chen Malchiel, told Peres they were the children who were
defined as the “kids of code red” – the alarm signal that gives them only a few
seconds to take shelter after a rocket has been fired. They live in constant
fear that the signal will sound at any moment, requiring them to leave their
games, nature spots and friends and take cover in a shelter with four walls but
no windows – an environment that is neither comfortable nor
Malchiel entreated the president to use his influence to do
something that would bring tranquility, security and enjoyment to the
Peres told the youngsters that he had come to Sderot as
“You should know that you are the source of strength and
power for the whole of Israel, and that all the children of Israel are proud of
you. You are very courageous children living in an abnormal reality. I know how
difficult it is for you and your mothers to sleep at night.”