Sderot boy, 9, 'too scared to come home'

Kassam outside elementary school narrowly misses three children.

kassam sderot 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
kassam sderot 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The three Amiramov children missed death by seconds on Wednesday morning when shrapnel from a Kassam rocket peppered their Sderot apartment around 7:30 a.m., just before they were about to leave for school. Nessa, eight, showed how she and her brother Israel, nine, and younger sister Revital, four, ran quickly upon hearing the warning siren and cowered in the stairwell away from the windows, which shattered upon impact. "I was scared when I heard the rocket go boom," Nessa said, holding her hands to her ears. The children's good fortune was only one of many miracles in Sderot on Wednesday morning, as the rocket landed in the parking lot of an elementary school some 15 minutes before children were set to arrive. Except for some cases of shock, no one was hurt in the attack. The school remained opened in spite of the attack, although classes were only held in the portions of the building that were protected, the city spokesman said. Some 25 percent of the Sderot classrooms are still not protected against Kassam rockets. According to Mayor Eli Moyal, only 40 percent of the city's children have shown up for school this week. While the rocket left only a small hole in the pavement, it damaged many apartments in the building across from the school. It landed only a short distance away from the site of a June 2004 attack that killed Afik Zahavi, four, and Mordechai Yosefov, 49. Nessa's mother, Claudia, said that she was home at the time of that first attack more than two years ago, which occurred on the street outside her apartment. She still recoils in horror from the memory of how the remains of the two bodies were scattered across the pavement. "The man didn't have a head; the boy lost his legs," she said. On Wednesday morning she got a second shock. She had left for work only an hour before the attack. Her son called her, crying, to tell her they had almost been hit. "Now he's too scared to come home," Claudia told The Jerusalem Post, "so he has gone to sleep at the home of his grandmother, who lives a short distance away." She returned following her son's call to an apartment with pockmarks on the walls, the shutters and the furniture. "Even the curtain has a hole in it," Claudia said as she held out the white cloth. "I'm angry and frightened," she said, adding that it was already hard to be a single mother of three without the threat of Kassam rockets. Eight-year-old Nessa could not remember a time when she had not been afraid of the rockets, she said. The one that landed outside her home was one of more than 20 rockets to hit the city in the last week. In the small cemetery on the city's outskirts, hundreds of mourners gathered Wednesday to bid farewell to Yaakov Yaakobov, 43, the father of two boys, 12 and 13. Yaakobov, a Russian immigrant, was killed on Tuesday when a Kassam landed in the factory where he worked on the outskirts of Sderot. One family friend told The Jerusalem Post that Yaakobov's wife Purim had a premonition that disaster was about to strike her family only a month before her son's bar-mitzva. A few days before the attack, Purim told friends she had a bad feeling. Immediately upon hearing that a rocket had fallen on Tuesday, she called her husband to check if he was okay. When no one answered, she was so certain that he had been in the attack that she left her work outside of the city and headed home. Yaakobov was the second fatality from Kassam rockets in less than a week. Last Wednesday, a Kassam rocket killed Fatima Slutsker. A total of seven Sderot residents have died in Kassam attacks. Outside the cemetery, a shepherd passed by with a herd of goats. But inside, the loud screams and cries of the mourners as they gathered around Yaakobov's shrouded body drowned out the voice of the speaker eulogizing him. At the family's request, no government or city representatives attended the funeral. But as the funeral proceeded, family members could not contain their grief, and both Yaakobov's wife and mother fainted. Friends and family members revived them by throwing water on their faces, fanning them and calling out their names. At roughly the same time that the funeral was taking place, hundreds of students protested at the Sapir College in the Negev over the government's failure to properly protect the school's classrooms and facilities. The protesters demanded that the government immediately allocate a budget for protecting the southern academic institution, located just a kilometer from the Gaza border. "We are ashamed of the leadership of the state of Israel, which has forgotten us all," college president Prof. Ze'ev Tzahor declared during the demonstration. "The problem with Israeli society is that solidarity is gone. Here, we are the frontline, and there is no one backing us. For two years we have been knocking on doors and receiving endless promises. All of these are false promises," he said. But not everyone ignored Sderot on Wednesday. An Italian diplomatic mission arrived in the city hours after the strike on the school, to meet with Moyal and to see the front line of Israel's home front with their own eyes. In the meeting with the Italian team, Moyal emphasized his disappointment that "in the international press, I just see the story of Beit Hanun - nobody tells our story, the story of Sderot." Among the visitors Wednesday was Kiryat Shmona Mayor Haim Barbivai, whose city on the Lebanese border turned into a ghost town over the summer when Hizbullah bombarded it with Katyusha rockets. As a result, Barbivai had no fear of walking down the street in Sderot, or sitting to eat lunch in a restaurant. "I've come to show solidarity with the people of Sderot," he said. "We are partners in suffering," he said.