500 Sderot residents find temporary peace in Jerusalem

The group, which arrived in Jerusalem on Tuesday,is staying at the capital hotel at the expense of the Defense Ministry.

sderot in jlem 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
sderot in jlem 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Five hundred rocket-weary residents of the Gaza border town of Sderot are slowly rediscovering normal life during a five-day stay in Jerusalem. "It's simply impossible to go on living in Sderot," Dana Makloof said Thursday as she rocked the baby carriage holding her five-month old twins on the shaded steps of Jerusalem's Shalom Hotel. "Now I'm calmer, and the concern has been neutralized, but I worry because we are going back to the same hole," she said. "At least you don't have to run with your two young children every 20 seconds when a Kassam falls," offered Liat Reviva, 24, who was also staying at the hotel with her two and half year old son, but whose mind was torn, since some of her family were still in Sderot. The Sderot residents, many of them families with young children, were just happy to get out of town - even lounging around the hotel lobby and poolside was a much-needed break for them. The group, which arrived in Jerusalem on Tuesday and will return home on Sunday, is staying at the capital hotel at the expense of the Defense Ministry, while other groups were sent out of harm's way to other major Israeli cities. Nearly half of the 23,000 residents of the northern Negev town spent Shavuot outside the city.. Palestinians have fired more than 6,000 Kassam rockets at Israel since 2001 - 1,600 since Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, an army spokeswoman said Thursday. More than 4,500 Kassams have landed in Sderot since 2001, Mayor Eli Moyal said. "It's nice to have this quiet in your head and not be worried all the time," concurred Ayala Yossef, 18, "even though this quiet is strange for us." She noted that she had been told that her high school was going to be relocated to Beersheba, a 40-minute drive from Sderot, as of Sunday, and confessed that she too was afraid to go home. "I'd really prefer to stay here because I'm scared to go home," agreed 12-year-old Shalev Himami, who said he was having "great fun" at the city hotel. The families staying at the hotel - which hosted evacuated residents of former Gaza Strip settlements - were offered an array of family-oriented events and sightseeing attractions, including free trips to the nearby Biblical Zoo and the Israel Museum, courtesy of the Jerusalem Municipality. All of the residents heaped praise on Russian-born billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak for his incessant work on their behalf - "There's no one like him" was the most common response when his name came up - although most said that his proposed tent city was not a good long-term solution for their problem. The tent city - expected to temporarily house several hundred people - is being set up in a wooded area near Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park after a Jerusalem municipal official turned down Gaydamak's request to establish it in Sacher Park, near the Knesset. "We just want to live in peace, like everyone else," said Linoi Albert, 17. Indeed, most of all it was quiet - and a return to normalcy - that the families were desperately searching for after the latest upsurge in the Palestinian rocket attacks, which, residents pointed out, have continued intermittently for seven years. "It's really nice that we have this opportunity to relax and not be afraid every second and have to look in the sky to see if something is falling," said Oshrat Elad, 34. "Here [in Jerusalem] it's like another country, another world. We had forgotten what it means to live in peace," she concluded.