This is an excerpt from my journal from Israel from visiting Sderot, a city that borders Gaza.
I zoned out listening to my iPod for a while until we finally reached our first major destination of the day Sderot. The name Sderot may not ring a bell to you, as I don’t honestly remember often seeing its name highlighted in the news. Sderot is a city that borders the West Bank and Gaza.
The first thing I noticed upon exiting the bus was a sign that said, “Danger of Death”.
I thought the sign was referring to the area. It wasn’t until later that I was told it was to make sure children didn’t try to climb the pole and get electrocuted.
Nadav informed the group that no matter where you were in most of Sderot, you were with in 10-15 seconds of a bomb shelter. If you were to hear the alarm saying a rocket was being dropped, it was time to run and find one of these, because the alarm only gives you fifteen seconds.
The strange thing about Sderot as a city was its beauty. It reminded me of standing on Omaha Beach in France. Sderot is a beautiful city, but war makes it a scary one to be in.
After a couple minutes, we piled back into the bus and drove near an area where we could see the Gaza Strip.
We stood on a giant pile of dirt where it was fairly easy to see Gaza as well as in the far distance Egypt. Nadav told us the story of an attempt by terrorists to destroy a power plant near the Gaza Strip, which ironically enough would have taken out power in Gaza. It was crazy, but so much of what goes on in the Middle East is.
Nadav did his best to explain the relations between Palestinians and Israelis and all of the conflict related in a short period of time. A crash course of sorts on the subject explaining the elections that brought Hamas to power. He also explained the fact that it seems almost more likely that there will be a three state solution than a two state one.
This made me think about conversations I’ve had in the past couple years about terrorism. There is a great episode of the West Wing that talks about this and the ongoing debate about what makes a terrorist. A terrorist is only a terrorist to one side typically and a patriot to another. I personally have trouble understanding anything patriotic or brave about shooting rockets from hospitals to avoid face retaliatory fire.
After standing on the hill of dirt for a while, we all started to walk down because it was time to go to talk to some of the local people of Sderot. Before doing this, we stopped at a local makeshift museum rockets shot from Gaza were being kept. They were sorted and spray painted with the dates they were shot.
We visited a local synagogue and talked to a woman who had moved from the US to Israel and lived in Sderot with her children because her family lived there. She talked about how despite war, you had to go on with life. She mentioned turning running to the bomb shelters into a game for her kids and that really made me feel awful. I can’t imagine having to do something like that, but it was part of the expectation in this town.
After listening to the woman and asking her some questions, the Rabbi of the synagogue we watched a film about the town. It showed how beautiful the town could be, but how dangerous it was at times. It was really powerful to watch.
What amazed me probably the most was that everything and everywhere had a bomb shelter. Even the playground had a bomb shelter, which looked like a giant cement caterpillar.
After fooling around for a couple minutes on the playground, it was time for lunch. I could hear my stomach growling pretty loud, so I was happy to go. We got back on the bus and drove to a small downtown type area in Sderot for lunch.