Life on the Line: Rockets in Sderot

Dear Friends,

 

Due to the terrible, on-going violence in Israel, I depart this week from my Divrei Torah to share a personal account of a friend in Sderot, one of the (literally) hardest hit communities.  

 

First, a brief personal background. 

 

In Jerusalem during the summer of 2015, I saw an advertisement for a day-trip/“informational tour” to the town adjacent to the Gaza strip, Sderot.  Despite numerous trips to Israel and fairly widespread travel in the country, I knew very little about the situation in Sderot.  I thought it would be interesting to see.  

 

It turned out to be far more than "interesting;" I was extremely disturbed to see bomb shelters in playgrounds and kindergartens, attached to homes, and serving double-duty as bus stops.  I saw divots in sidewalks and shrapnel holes in buildings where rockets from Gaza had landed .. and they continued to be fired and to terrorize the population.  

 

I wondered, how could I not know about this?  Why weren’t rabbis, my friends, and acquaintances back in the US talking about this intolerable situation? How could all these Israelis live, and raise children, under constant threat of rocket fire, with only seconds to react to sirens and race to a shelter or lay down in the street … and pray?  

 

I decided I had to learn much more, and to tell the story of this remarkable community.  During 2015-2016, I returned to Sderot repeatedly – and ultimately lived there for a month, sleeping next to a reinforced room into which I could scramble.  What I learned during my stay is much too long to relate here (see a few basic facts in the P.S., below).  But I met many incredibly brave and determined Israelis.  

 

One of them was Yedidya Lerner, who would become a good friend.  This week, I invited Yedidya to share his recent experience regarding the outbreak of violence.  Here is his account. 

 

I was in Jerusalem at the "Flags parade" when the sudden siren alert of Qassam rockets launched from Gaza landing close to Jerusalem struck the crowd who started running for shelter. Most of the security personal don't really know how to handle such situations. It was awkward to feel I can keep my composure in the midst of such a surreal situation, due to my "experience".  Shulamit called from home to say the ongoing strikes are unbearable, and she is determined to evacuate to our parents' home in Samaria. 

 

So here we are, in Peduel [per Wikipedia, “an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Located about 25 km east of Tel Aviv – AJL] with a little laundry and personal supplies, but with lots of support from close family and friends. 

 

Meanwhile we hear more and more about the outrageous behavior of some of the Arab-Israeli population, and how the riots are refueled by incitement and hatred against the Jewish people.  We heard about the little 5 year old who was a victim of blind fate as shrapnel hit him through the window of his apartment reinforced concrete shelter.  This small detail of information is shattering my daughter's prospect of denial that I have educated her to surround herself with. She's 19 now but crying.  Trying to be strong and hide her tears, but the feeling of helplessness could at times be overwhelming.  

 

We see AM ISRAEL [i.e., the Jewish people – AJL] in moment of greatness, united and courageous. Thank you for all your support and prayers, and we have much appreciation for all security forces who under lots of tension keep up the good and professional work of defending people. We pray that Hashem give our leaders the right wisdom to maintain the situation until we reach ceasefire. 

 

P. S.  A few facts to keep in mind regarding Gaza and Sderot:

 

1.  Israel had thriving agricultural communities in Gaza until 2005, at which time Israel, under Ariel Sharon, entirely withdrew (an extremely tramatic event for Israelis).  Hence, there has now been no "occupation" of Gaza by Israel (even assuming that the communities were "occupiers, which is disputed.) for over fifteen years.  

 

2. Sderot is in internationally-recognized Israel.  Hence, there is no "occupation" of Sderot by Israel (except in the view of those who entirely deny Israel's legitimacy). 

 

3.  Hamas took power in 2007, and hundreds of rockets have been fired at Sderot and surrounding communities in the "Gaza envelope" since then.  (Given this reality in Sderot, what would happen if Israel withdrew from the West Bank, much larger and closer to Israeli population centers than Gaza?) 

 

4.  Both Israel and Egypt restrict the flow of people and goods into and out of Gaza. 

 

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