Investigative report: Five families, 15 children, and a number of volunteers have been living in a bomb shelter for the past four days since the war on the south began. The shelter is located in one of the most frequently rocket-shelled neighborhoods in Sderot called Atar Cherum. Livnat Shaubi of Sderot Media Center met with residents of the neighborhood are now living in the bomb shelter. They share their feelings of life under Palestinian rocket fire for the past 8 years.
It began on Saturday night when Israel Defense Forces began striking Gaza. Residents of Sderot’s neighborhood, Atar Cherum, felt the walls of their homes vibrating from the strikes. The Atar Cherum neighborhood, located in western Sderot, is one of the Sderot neighborhoods located closest to the Gaza border.
Sderot families, among them women, children, and the elderly, already conditioned to this reality, quickly made their way into the bomb shelters located throughout the city in anticipation of a Hamas rocket strike.
In the Atar Cherum bomb shelter, neighborhood families have spent already four days sitting together waiting for the Hamas rocket strikes to be over. The shelter currently houses 15 children, their parents, and volunteers who have come to help and support Sderot residents during the intense Hamas rocket strikes.
Video: Livnat Shaubi
Zahava Yuchlashat, mother of four children, and part of the Ethiopian community in Sderot, told Sderot Media Center that she has been living in the shelter for three days now. “My husband is a career army officer and he can only get home at the end of the week. I take care of the kids by myself for the rest of the week.”
“I decided to remain in Sderot because this is our reality even with all the difficulties,” said Zahava. She describes her family’s new routine. “We eat and sleep in the bomb shelter but I go home in order to cook our meals. Towards evening, I bring my kids one by one to shower and then we all go to sleep in the shelter.”
Zahava told Sderot Media Center that many husbands in Sderot work outside the city, which means that the mother must stay at home to be with the kids during periods of rocket escalation. “The schools and kindergartens are closed, so throughout the day the kids spend all their time in the bomb shelters. We are fortunate to have volunteers who come to make activities for the kids.”
Ruth Lavie, who moderates crisis management groups for the Sderot Hosen Center, a center that offers support to area residents during times of emergency, conducted arts and crafts projects for a group of children in the shelter which included Zahava’s three year old son.
“The atmosphere in Sderot is very tense right now,” said Ruth. “Through my work, I try to establish a normal routine for Sderot children, one that allows them to be creative and active. The activities I plan for these kids include crafts and games designed for kids of all ages.”
“Sometimes I will sit and play with a child who sits alone, encouraging him and attempting to give him some sense of security,” said Ruth.
Photo: Roy Edan
Ruth also shares her feeling as a Sderot mother of grown-up children. “I don’t feel I need to leave Sderot because my children are older. If I had very young children now, I would probably think differently. But at this point, I’m staying in Sderot to help anyone who needs help.”
Tair Ben Moshe, 15 from Jerusalem, also arrived to the bomb shelter to help out the children. “My parents were against me coming to Sderot. They are very frightened for me. Only after, many arguments and persuasions, did they allow me to finally come.”
“I got here and am sleeping with the residents in the shelter. The children are great and I have fun hanging out with them,” says Tair.
Zahava will most likely be spending several more nights with her children in the bomb shelter of the Atar Cherum neighborhood, but she is happy that Israel is finally responding to the Hamas rocket terror. “We bless the IDF and are pleased with the operation. We will stay here in the shelter until this nightmare ends,” she says.
*Translated by Anav Silverman.