Security: Blasts of fear and frustration

Taking her Kassam-traumatized children to treatments cost Shulamit Sasson her job.

By YOAV APPEL
June 22, 2006 23:13
4 minute read.
kassam on the ground 88

kassam lands 88. (photo credit: )

 
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Shulamit Sasson is a mother of five, born and raised in Sderot, the type of person Israelis dub "salt of the earth." In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, she said she was recently fired from her job at a Negev restaurant for taking too much time off work while caring for her son who had fallen ill after a Kassam landed in his classroom last month - her second child to have a close encounter with the crude but deadly rockets. Three years ago, her then 8-year-old son, Raziel, climbed a tree in his schoolyard to bring down a trapped football when a Kassam landed nearby. Raziel was thrown from the tree, hit the ground hard, and ran toward a bomb shelter, she related. The shelter was locked, and Sasson said when he couldn't open it, he panicked and began crying. When she arrived soon after he was hysterical, and an ambulance took them to hospital. Raziel was diagnosed as suffering from shock. Since then he can't be alone, sleeps in his parents' bed at night, and has to be escorted around during the day. For more than two years, Sasson said, he visited three psychological clinics a week, in Sderot, Ashkelon and Beersheba. Since the new, almost incessant, barrage of Kassam attacks on Sderot - intensified since the killing of seven members of a Palestinian family on the Gaza beachfront two weeks ago (proven since then not to have been caused by IDF fire) - the Sassons have taken to sleeping on mattresses in their living room, considered the safest place in the house. While Raziel missed schooldays to attend clinics, his mother recounted, she skipped days at work to escort him - which, she said, caused her to be fired from a number of jobs due to poor attendance. "I appealed to the mayor [Eli Moyal]," Sasson said. "I said, 'Listen, if you don't help me, I'm going to dump five children in your lap.' I just didn't have the strength anymore." In response, the municipality provided Sasson with a taxi that took her and Raziel to Beersheba for therapy over the course of an entire year. This, she said, didn't sweeten the pill of receiving a bill for the ambulance that had taken her child to hospital after the Kassam fell, or threats of legal action when she refused to pay. Last month, a rocket fell in the classroom of another son, 18-year-old Aviran, soon to be drafted. He rang his mother crying, seconds after the explosion. "I ran to the school, I saw my boy shaking, frightened," Sasson said. For a number of nights, Aviran didn't sleep, and when she took him to the hospital, he was diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure. After taking four days off work to care for him, she said, her superviser told her not to bother showing up for work the next day. Her three other children - including her youngest, 9-year-old Liz - take sleeping pills before bed. Sasson said that Liz often dreams that the town's "Red Dawn" warning sirens have been tripped. (The detection system, which identifies missiles in the air, gives residents sparse seconds to seek shelter before a rocket lands, and often fails to detect them altogether.) SASSON'S HUSBAND works for the prisons service, leaving home early in the morning and returning late at night. The seven-member family struggles to survive on a single salary. When one of Sasson's children asked for $600 to pay for a school trip to Poland, she said she had to turn him down. "Nobody knows what we're going through," Sasson said. "To understand what we're going through, you have to live here. With salvos of 16, 17 Kassams, it's roulette." Sasson said that though she "loves this town, was born here, raised [her] children here," she would leave Sderot in a second if she could afford it. "If the prime minister doesn't have an answer for me, and he doesn't know how to stop [the Kassams], he should give me the money he gave to those in Gush Katif and let me live wherever I want, where it's quiet," Sasson said, adding, "If I find someone to buy the house today, tomorrow I'm out of here. I'm not prepared to be this frightened and for my children to go through this trauma." SDEROT IS a blue-collar, working-class development town, established 50 years ago on the northwestern edge of the Negev. The air's dry, and the sun seems to beat down mercilessly on the town's 24,000 inhabitants, who get little shade from the drab, duplex housing blocks that line the city. Residents, including Mayor Eli Moyal, say they don't want money, or financial incentives, from the government. What they want is security. And a little attention paid to them for what they have been forced to endure. The imprecise rockets fired from Gaza rarely kill - more than 6,000 Kassams launched have resulted in five deaths, according to Moyal - but leave residents anxiety-ridden and sleepless throughout long nights of awaiting the shrill whistle of a speeding projectile and the inevitable blast moments later. Moyal said he doesn't have a solution. "That's not my job. I was elected to collect garbage," he said. "But the government promised us that after disengagement, for every Kassam that fell here, Gaza would tremble. Gaza is not trembling, and we are here with the Kassams."

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