Sderot envoys prepare for PR in Europe

Residents to visit Switzerland, France, Belgium to tell of Kassam experience.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Four residents of Sderot and nearby communities are set to leave Wednesday for a four-day visit to Switzerland, France and Belgium, to tell the story of those who have lived under Kassam rocket attacks for almost seven years. "Personal stories, human experiences - that's what touches others. What is obvious to you isn't necessarily clear to people abroad. It's not certain that they know that Israel withdrew from Gaza almost two years ago," Jewish Agency spokesman Yarden Vatikay told the delegation during a day of briefings by spokespeople and media consultants at the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday. "Try not to get into politics. Remember that there is one clear truth - despite the fact that Israel left Gaza, the quality of your lives became worse," Vatikay said. Aviv Shir-On, Foreign Ministry deputy director-general for Media and Public Affairs, elaborated: "However, if someone asks you a political question, answer him, but make it short." The initiative - sending French-speaking Israelis to Francophone nations, and in the future, English-speaking Israelis to Britain and the Netherlands - is a joint project of the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency and the Foreign Ministry. Shir-On told delegation members that he was sure there would be people whose reactions would disturb them. "Give us an example, please," asked Miri Levin from Erez, an art teacher at Sha'ar HaNegev High School and the only woman in this group. Shir-On rose to the occasion. "Excuse me, madam," he responded. "You live on occupied land and we can understand why these rockets are fired at you. I don't care if your children's lives are at stake. Sderot, Nir Am and Erez are settlements." "According to what law?" reacted Georges Adjedj, a Sdeort Municipal employee. "According to international law," Shir-On replied, still playing devil's advocate. "[Only] if they could prove that they're settlements," Adjedj rebutted. "See?" said Shir-On, resuming his advisory role. "This is exactly the type of trap we don't want you to fall into." He added that reporters and media representatives might use similar tricks to provoke an angry reaction. Michelle Stein-Teer, a communication skills expert, explained to the members of the group what they should do and not do during a radio or TV interview or while dining with donors. Stein-Teer said she was sure the western Negev residents would speak from their hearts. "You're not professional spokesmen, you're simply suffering citizens," she told them. "However," she cautioned, "think about what you're going to say. Have a prepared beginning and an end... You can also repeat some things you said in other interviews." Getting down to the nitty-gritty, Stein-Teer recommended they take a deep breath before answering questions and avoid using "empty" words. She reminded them that it was permissible, even desirable, to pause before replying. A slightly uncertain David Mamou, a teacher from Sderot, tried it out on video. "I represent my family and friends in Sderot, where life has not been normal for a long time," he told the camera. "I had to leave my handicapped daughter... to come here and tell you what our everyday reality is like." Stein-Teer praised him, and the rest of the group applauded. "What are you happy about?" asked Avi Kadoch, from Kibbutz Nir Am, "You're talking about our continuing distress."