Desert dwellers take refuge from Kassams in Tel Aviv woods

The tent city set up by billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak is intended to provide relief for residents.

sderot kassams 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
sderot kassams 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Residents of Sderot arrived by bus at the Bereshit forest in Tel Aviv on Thursday to escape, for a while, the daily reality of rockets landing on their houses, streets and public buildings. The tent city set up by billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak is intended to provide relief for the war-weary residents of the southern town. "Today was relatively quiet, but we really want to get away from town. The kids are worried, I'm constantly worried. It's nice to be able to get away," said Sderot resident Ella Mellamut. "I've never been here before. We hope to enjoy a nice weekend and then go back to work on Sunday," she said. Rafi Danino brought his 10-year-old daughter Lee. They, too, plan to stay for the weekend. "It's frightening there. You don't know when the next Kassam is going to fall; going out is like playing Russian roulette. A rocket fell near my house last week and broke my kitchen windows," he said. "Sderot is like a ghost town. As it is, many people have already left. I wanted to bring my daughter so that she can break out of the routine and relax for a while," Danino continued. Gaydamak's people had been busy preparing for the arrival of hundreds of citizens fleeing the daily attacks on Sderot. For the last two days, construction crews had been pitching tents, laying pipes and receiving supplies at the site near Yarkon Park. Three hundred workers - electricians, landscapers, construction workers, plumbers, cooks, and security guards - had been working around the clock to prepare of the area. Trucks carrying everything from fruits and vegetables to mattresses, sound equipment and electric fans arrived continually. The cost of the production is very high. "We're talking about tens of thousands of shekels a day," said event producer David Nitsani on behalf of Gaydamak. "This is different than what we had in Nitsanim last summer. Back then, we told the residents of the North who arrived that they would be accommodated for as long as the war lasted," he explained. Since Gaydamak's people don't expect the Kassam fire to stop any time soon, Nitsani said, the tent city was intended more to provide Sderot residents with a Kassam-free week or so. When asked why people should come to the tent city when the government is offering hotel rooms, Nitsani replied, "We aren't competing with the Defense Ministry. This place is going to be orientated towards children and families." Indeed, the tent city is located in an area that features many attractions for children. It is within walking distance of Luna Park, the Maimadion water park, the Sportek sport complex and the Yarkon city park. Nitsani said that Gaydamak's team would arrange free admission to local attractions for occupants of the tent city. "The children won't want to leave," he said. The facility has 30 tents, each of which can house several families, a large dining tent that can accommodate 500 people, a kosher kitchen that will provide three meals a day and 70 sets of portable toilets and showers. "One of the major lessons of last summer was the importance of ensuring that people have their privacy. We've set up partitions in each of the tents so that families can feel more comfortable," said logistics supervisor Ilan Sector. The tent city features a laundry room, an infirmary, playgrounds and a central stage on which local artists are scheduled to perform.