'You can grit your teeth and bear it'

By ABE SELIG, DIANA GERSHMAN
December 31, 2008 01:47
3 minute read.

Sderot resident Don Bar-El, 70, didn't flinch when his neighbors pointed out the gaping hole in the ground 20 meters from his home. While many of his neighbors fled to the refuge of bomb shelters during a barrage of half a dozen rockets, Bar-El strode towards the local supermarket for a copy of The Jerusalem Post to catch up with American sports news. "I'm really not worried about them," said Bar-El of the rockets. "One of these days, I have to [die]. All of us have to. It's not my problem." "I came to Israel [from the US] in 1978," he said. "I moved to Sderot because it was dirt cheap, and when I was living in Jerusalem, you couldn't get a place for a dog. Here, at least I get a place with three rooms." When asked if he had any advice for other individuals in his predicament, Bar-El replied, "You can grit your teeth and bear it." The first barrage of rockets from Gaza began late in the morning and continuing sporadically throughout the day. While residents of the Kassam-battered town are often the first to say that they've become accustomed to the sudden, daunting echo of the "Color Red" siren that sounds 10 to 15 seconds before a rocket touches down, residents on Tuesday could nonetheless be seen scrambling to the nearest cover available the moment a siren was heard. Shrapnel sent flying during Tuesday's first attack severely wounded a dog, and the second barrage, which rained down on the town a couple of hours later, scored a direct hit on a home, lightly wounding a man inside and sending several others into shock. On the scene of one of the strikes - a quiet neighborhood street lined with houses - police and firefighters cordoned off the area as onlookers gathered to inspect the damage. In the front yard of a nearby home, a young girl watched the scene unfold with her mother. "I'm not scared," the girl said. "We're used to this." During a following "color red" alert, nearly a dozen passing residents crammed into one shelter alone - an eclectic cross-section of this otherwise quiet western Negev town. A young man adjusted his kippa and recited psalms while an elderly Russian woman cursed the smell of the shelter. Moments later, a loud boom was heard in the distance and the residents began to shuffle out, only to run back inside when another siren sounded only seconds later. Again they waited, heard the loud boom, this time from a different direction, and left the shelter in single file. But with nearly a dozen reported strikes in and around Sderot registered just after noon, the shelling was far from over. A patrol of recently drafted paratroopers were joined to a Home Front Command unit and went through Sderot's neighborhoods, going door to door and assisting residents however they could. They too said they were wary of the sirens and loud booms that followed, but knew that there would be more to come throughout the day. Streets were mostly barren, with the odd passing car speeding through town and then screeching to a stop the moment a siren, or anything resembling it, was heard. On top of a nearby hill, police officers joined by curious residents looked down across the plain and into Gaza - staring at the source of their grievances, which lay less than a kilometer in front of them. Black smoke could be seen rising over Beit Hanoun and the Jabalya refugee camp as IAF planes and helicopters launched sporadic assaults on rocket cells operating below. Suddenly, white trails of smoke could be seen shooting out from inside Beit Hanoun, following freshly fired rockets. "They're firing on Ashkelon!" someone yelled. Then another trail, towards the south. "That one's heading for Netivot!" another voice called out. And then another trail, this time more difficult to make out. "Run! It's heading over here!" another voice cried, and sure enough, the "color red" began to sound again as the small crowd that had gathered, with no shelter in sight, lay on the ground and prayed for the best.


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