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The War At Home – Living in Sderot

March 1, 2008
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Geut’s husband, Shlomi, is at work in his coffee shop in Sderot. He started working in the shop seven months ago, and business is suffering, even though the store hours are from 7:00 a.m. to midnight. Shlomi says, through a translator, that in the last three months, he has had something like 70% fewer customers. Shlomi gets a phone call telling him about the rocket attack. What does a father, husband, and homeowner feel when his house has been hit with a Kassam? His answer is surprisingly simple, “Feeling? Upset, nervous.”

It is two days since the attack. The room is mostly cleared, and a small airplane lamp hanging from the shattered roof is one of the few reminders of the life that was, and somehow will continue to be, in this Sderot home. On the wall near the front door, a blood smear is a grim reminder of the danger that inhabits that life.

Shortly after leaving the tragedy-stricken home on my visit to Sderot, I hear of another Kassam strike in town. It is one of nearly 40 rockets that will be fired at the region that day, part of a seven-day stretch in which more than 200 Kassams were launched. A crowd gathers in the street where the Kassam landed. A woman is seen crying in the back entrance of her home, presumably out of fright. A neighbor is slowly escorted to an ambulance stretcher, apparently after suffering from shock. The clean-up team works quickly. Within 30 minutes, the Kassam is gone, and the fire department has sprayed down the blackened hole in the street where the rocket hit.

I stop to interview a man on the street about the incident. His name is Ohad Haddad, a student at nearby Sapir College. He said he was at home when the rocket fell and never heard an alarm warning of the incoming missile. He was scared when he heard the blast, but he has no plans to leave Sderot. His negative outlook on Israel as a whole symbolizes the despair of the situation in this war-zone. “There is no other place to go,” said Haddad. “In every city, soon there will be attacks or suicide bombers, so there is no safe place to live in Israel. So, for now, we are staying here, and we hope that the government will do something to protect us.”

Shlomi says they will continue to live in Sderot as well. He was born in the town and does not want to leave the family-like community, even now. The same cannot be said for their neighbors. Their daughter injured, that family is leaving. The decision will likely become an increasingly difficult one for the more than 19,000 people living in Sderot. Frustration levels with the situation seem to be increasing. “It is very difficult. It’s not simple to live in a city with rockets, every time, every day, every hour,” said Haddad.

Bridges for Peace is one of the organizations that has offered aid to Sderot in an effort to ease their suffering, delivering 300 blankets and 220 heaters to help them during winter. In addition, Sderot is one of the towns adopted by Bridges for Peace in the Adopt an Israeli Town Project. We provide food for 100 families, assistance with special projects, and comfort in the midst of tragedy.

Life is supposed to be about more than easing suffering. After seven years of rocket fire, however, dealing with that suffering has become the definition of most of Sderot life. Yet, as the airplane lamp doggedly hangs from the Aragon’s Kassam-damaged ceiling, so the residents of Sderot are doggedly determined to survive the war at home.

By Joshua Spurlock
BFP Israel Mosaic Radio
Will King contributed to this story