Article and photos by Noam BedeinDirector, Sderot Media Centerwww.sderotmedia.org.ilWednesday the 23rd of March, was the first time since Operation Cast Lead that an Iranian Grad missile exploded in Be''er Sheba, 40km from Gaza.Arriving at the scene of the rocket strike Thursday morning, in the Northern neighborhoods of Be''er Sheba, brought me back to the terror scenes in Sderot of the past few years. For several years, rocket attacks were part of my daily routine living and working at the Sderot Media Center. When the Tzeva Adom sounded, I would go to the neighborhoods where the rocket exploded and film the scene. The next day, I would return, documenting the ''the day after'', listening to the stories of residents on what occurred to them the day before.
In Be''er Sheba, I saw the same scenes I''d witnessed in Sderot: shattered car windshields; the shrapnel holes making "windows" on the homes; the radius of damage from where the missile exploded; the ''cover up'' of the missile hole; like nothing happened and expecting the people to go back to normal; the holes in the iron doors; the Shabbat candles standing among shattered glasses; pictures of Rabbis hanging untouched on what remained of the walls; frightened and excited residents of the damaged or destroyed homes who just want to share their personal experience with the world; hearing story, counting the amount of times I heard the words; Luck, coincidence, and miracles.
Be''er Sheba resident Chen Saban, a Sapir College student in her early twenties whose house was hit, described how she and her family were lucky enough to reach the secured room on time, saying she never expected her home to be hit. She said it was ironic because she goes to Sapir College, which is only a few km away from Gaza. Chen, who is supposed to get married in the next 3 weeks, is no longer certain about her future in Be''er Sheba and how she ill be able to plan her life living there.
It was amazing to hear all this because it took me 45 minutes to drive from Sderot to Be''er Sheba, which is 40km from Gaza, with residents having 60 seconds to run for the shelter once the siren goes off. And still the same reaction and comments of the frightened and traumatized people.Today, the more than 1 million Israelis who live in the range of 40km from Gaza are not feeling as secure as they did yesterday, asking themselves "who is next?"Yitchak Akli a resident of the Be''er Sheba neighborhood said: "We should learn from the experience of ''cast lead'''' that this would happen, they have (missiles) and hiding them, to launch and fire them at the right time, on any target in Be''er Sheba. It''s a matter of time. They''ve learned our capabilities and they''ve learned us".Since the last "cease fire" 530 rockets and missiles have been fired towards the SouthWestern, past of Israel.The Iranian Grad missile exploding in Be''er Sheba is a reminder how that a few months ago the Shin-Bet reported that there''s a stack of over 5,000 Iranian missiles in Gaza, all of them having a range of 40 KM. This is especially troubling because, in November 2009, Hamas test-fired a missile test towards the Mediterranean, reaching 60 KM, which is the distance from Northern Gaza to Tel-Aviv.In November 2010, the ITIC reported that Hamas has missiles with an 80km range.Almost everyone in the Western Negev knows not it''s not "if''" but "when"'' the next missile escalation starts, leading to the next Gaza war.After living in Sderot for the past 5 years, watching the construction of 5,000 new bomb shelters, you don’t have to be a prophet to understand that the highest authorities in Israel know there has not been a permanent end to the rocket fire. Being realistic, Israel has to be prepared for many more years of conflict on the Gaza border. While Iran is certainly a threat for Israel, the biggest delegitimization threat for Israel, is with no doubt Gaza. Add to this the uprisings in Egypt and North Africa, bringing to power groups that have already declared they will end the "peace treaty" with Israel. The harsh response that Israel received from the world media and many governments during and after Cast Lead, after the Flotilla incident, and right up to today is actually a modern-day version of a very old demonization of Jews and Israel. A tremendous effort is being made to delegitimize Israel, with the goal of eliminating the Jewish state. How Israel will deal with this threat? Noam Bedein is a photojournalist, lecturer and founder/director of Sderot Media Center. He has conducted briefings and tours for government officials, diplomats, foreign press, and students from around the world.