For the better part of the past two decades, the community of Sderot has bared the brunt of the violence and aggression that Gaza has directed towards the State of Israel. By the end of November 2007, over 6,300 rockets had hit Sderot in less than five years, with the escalation only building. Last week, over 150 lay leaders from Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF), joined Mayor Alon Davidi and community members of Sderot, to commemorate the ten year anniversary of the opening of the Sderot Indoor Recreation Center, a 21,000 square foot facility that has been a symbol of the resilience of the Sderot community since 2009. “This place is not just a safe haven, but a safe heaven,” said Terry Katz, from Bala Cynwyd, PA, who said, “seeing the unbelievable joy and excitement, the day of the Purim carnival, when we opened officially, was amazing. Ten years later, I look at this with a different type of appreciation that this place is here, especially in recent years.”
For JNF, the commitment to Sderot extends past times of emergency, standing side by side with the community before, during and after crisis. “When you go to Sderot, Eshkol, Halutza, and Sha’ar Hanegev, we have a relationship of equal debate, of our involvement and our dreaming, together with their dreaming,” said JNF CEO Russell Robinson, “It’s a relationship that allows them to push us, and us to push them. It is a relationship on the vision of what could be. Today, Sderot has 4,000 new housing sites. It’s the place to where you come to live. This is happening in the places where we invest our time and effort in serious decision making.” The new Media Center, dedicated in memory of Ellen Rosenberg, of Baltimore, MD, whose compassion and commitment to helping Israel inspired many of the leaders present, will continue to be a place where the children and families of Sderot know they have a place where they can feel safe.
For Mayor Alon Davidi, the partnership with JNF is a symbol for the future of his community. “I feel that we are a big family, and I know I have a partner in JNF-USA, in order to help the community and people of Sderot. Together, we will continue our mission, to build the future of our people here in Sderot.”