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 Wednesday.

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.

He thought that toys would do the trick, and Nir-Mozes responded accordingly.

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.

Not 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 for years.

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 pleasant.

Click for full JPost coverage

Malchiel entreated the president to use his influence to do something that would bring tranquility, security and enjoyment to the beleaguered town.

Peres told the youngsters that he had come to Sderot as a grandfather.

“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.”

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger