Synagogue in Sderot

Routine reports of Kassam rockets falling don't capture the sense of siege under which people live.

By NOAM BEDEIN
October 24, 2006 22:50
3 minute read.

 
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Rockets were fired on the southern Israeli city of Sderot on Friday night. No casualties occurred. - Israel Radio News, Saturday night, October 21 I'm sitting in the back of a Sephardic synagogue in Sderot on Friday night. It's a two-minute walk from my rental apartment. This is only my second Shabbat here after spending the holidays at my parents' home near Jerusalem. I'm thinking to myself, while the prayers are conducted in a thick Moroccan-accented chant, that it will be good to get back to a routine - Torah learning, studies, a morning photography class, a few hours of volunteering with Ethiopian children and my new job in Sderot: briefing groups and journalists and introducing them to the people of this community which has struggled under daily rocket bombardment for the past five years. While my mind is wandering, I hear the siren go off... Tzeva Adom - color red. We have about 15 seconds to seek shelter. The congregants, mostly older men and young fathers with children, carry on praying and pay little attention to the siren. All this is "normal," someone whispers. Anyway, many residents don't have a secure room or shelter to flee to. The day before, Sderot's chief security officer showed me a map covered with dots indicating the places were the Kassams have hit. He stopped putting dots on the map two years ago, because it was completely full. AFTER 27 seconds, the synagogue shook with a loud thud. Everyone jumped out of their seats. The shell came down close - real close. Older children ran out of the synagogue to see what damage had been done. The younger children grabbed their fathers' legs. A 13-year-old boy started to shake and broke down in tears. His father also appeared confused and helpless. Many children in Sderot suffer from some level of post-traumatic stress syndrome. Some 14 year olds still insist on sleeping in their parents' room; older children have started to wet their beds again; some parents don't allow their children to go anywhere by themselves. There are no carefree hours at the playground. THE KASSAM on Friday night fell 100 meters from the synagogue into the backyard of a family home. Nearby car and home windows were shattered. A young boy on the sidewalk was wounded by shrapnel. As I write these words, I'm still feeling a bit shaky. And the thing going through my mind is that no matter how I feel from this one experience, residents of this place have been living with this horrifying reality for more than five years. That Friday night I had a hard time falling asleep. I was thinking of how the Gaza Arab who fired the Kassam had probably been taking cover among civilians, aiming at our unprotected homes and houses of worship. Like many in Sderot, I am angry. Is this to be our continuing reality? Would any other Western democratic nation put up with such a relentless onslaught? What would they do? Few people, even in Israel, have a clear idea about what's happening in Sderot. It's not until you've spent at least three weeks getting used to waking up to predawn sirens and worrying each time just how close the rockets are going to fall - will it be three blocks away? The other side of town? Most people can't imagine what life in this town is like - a place where Jews do not feel protected and rely on daily miracles for survival. How may people have to get killed before our government finally puts an end to these attacks? After all, since September 2005, when Israel abandoned the Jewish communities of Gaza, which have now been transformed into terror bases, the civil defense authorities have reported that the enemy has carried out more than 1,000 Kassam attacks. Twenty-two people have been killed in the Western Negev by what the media insists on calling "home-made Kassam rockets." Routine reports of Kassam rockets falling simply don't capture the sense of siege under which people around here live. We want people outside of Sderot and the Western Negev to appreciate what it is like for the region's 45 communities. I got my first taste of that fear and sense of abandonment this past Friday night. The writer, age 24, spent a year in seminary, three years in the IDF and a year trekking around Asia. He recently moved to Sderot to work and study.

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