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Synagogue in Sderot – the Kasssam Experience

NOAM BEDEIN , THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 26, 2006
www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1161811209973&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

[The writer, age 24, spent a year in seminary, three years in the IDF and a
year trekking around Asia. He recently moved to Sderot to work and study. ]

Rockets were fired on the southern Israeli city of Sderot on Friday night.
No casualties occurred.
- Israel Radio News, Saturday night, October 21

I’m sitting in the back of a Sephardic synagogue in Sderot on Friday night.
It’s a two-minute walk from my rental apartment.
This is only my second Shabbat here after spending the holidays at my
parents’ home near Jerusalem.

I’m thinking to myself, while the prayers are conducted in a thick
Moroccan-accented chant, that it will be good to get back to a routine -
Torah learning, studies, a morning photography class, a few hours of
volunteering with Ethiopian children and my new job in Sderot: briefing
groups and journalists and introducing them to the people of this community
which has struggled under daily rocket bombardment for the past five years.

While my mind is wandering, I hear the siren go off… Tzeva Adom – color
red. We have about 15 seconds to seek shelter.
The congregants, mostly older men and young fathers with children, carry on
praying and pay little attention to the siren. All this is “normal,” someone
whispers.

Anyway, many residents don’t have a secure room or shelter to flee to.

The day before, Sderot’s chief security officer showed me a map covered with
dots indicating the places were the Kassams have hit. He stopped putting
dots on the map two years ago, because it was completely full.

AFTER 27 seconds, the synagogue shook with a loud thud. Everyone jumped out
of their seats. The shell came down close – real close. Older children ran
out of the synagogue to see what damage had been done.

The younger children grabbed their fathers’ legs. A 13-year-old boy started
to shake and broke down in tears. His father also appeared confused and
helpless.

Many children in Sderot suffer from some level of posttraumatic stress
syndrome. Some 14 year olds still insist on sleeping in their parents’ room;
older children have started to wet their beds again; some parents don’t
allow their children to go anywhere by themselves. There are no carefree
hours at the playground.

THE KASSAM on Friday night fell 100 meters from the synagogue into the
backyard of a family home. Nearby car and home windows were shattered. A
young boy on the sidewalk was wounded by shrapnel.

As I write these words, I’m still feeling a bit shaky. And the thing going
through my mind is that no matter how I feel from this one experience,
residents of this place have been living with this horrifying reality for
more than five years. That Friday night I had a hard time falling asleep. I
was thinking of how the Gaza Arab who fired the Kassam had probably been
taking cover among civilians, aiming at our unprotected homes and houses of
worship.

Like many in Sderot, I am angry. Is this to be our continuing reality? Would
any other Western democratic nation put up with such a relentless onslaught?
What would they do?

Few people, even in Israel, have a clear idea about what’s happening in
Sderot. It’s not until you’ve spent at least three weeks getting used to
waking up to predawn sirens and worrying each time just how close the
rockets are going to fall – will it be three blocks away? The other side of
town?

Most people can’t imagine what life in this town is like – a place where
Jews do not feel protected and rely on daily miracles for survival.

How may people have to get killed before our government finally puts an end
to these attacks?

After all, since September 2005, when Israel abandoned the Jewish
communities of Gaza, which have now been transformed into terror bases, the
civil defense authorities have reported that the enemy has carried out more
than 1,000 Kassam attacks.
Twenty-two people have been killed in the Western Negev by what the media
insists on calling “home-made Kassam
rockets.” Routine reports of Kassam rockets falling simply don’t capture the
sense of siege under which people around here live.

We want people outside of Sderot and the Western Negev to appreciate what it
is like for the region’s 45 communities. I got my first taste of that fear
and sense of abandonment this past Friday night.

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