This article is dedicated to the memory of Yakov Yaakobov Z”L, a husband and father of two young boys, murdered by a Qassam rocket 4 years ago, on the 21st of November 2006, the first day of the month of Kislev.
It’s been almost two years since the IDF incursion in Gaza sought to put an end to the Gaza terror regime’s daily rocket attacks on the civilian population in Sderot and the Western Negev.
While attacks have been dramatically reduced, the construction of approximately 5,000 new bomb shelters in the Sderot region demonstrates that the “peaceful” situation isn’t expected to last.
Israel was successful in its efforts to reduce the threat to its citizens, but not successful in changing world opinion. The international diplomatic and public relations damage has multiplied since the operation in Gaza, and Israel is still having to justify its military actions.
One common theme in global reporting on the IDF incursion focuses on the “disproportionate” death toll: 1,114 deaths in Gaza, and 13 on the Israeli side of the border.
The Gaza deaths are usually reported as mostly civilian casualties; but, according to a report in Haaretz this past week, Hamas admitted that 600 to 700 of those killed were armed terrorists. Given their history of misrepresentation, there’s every reason to suspect that Hamas still under-reports its casualties and inflates the number of civilian deaths.
According to Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, the vast majority of the rockets from Gaza are launched from among the civilian population. If there is any disproportion in the situation, it’s in the fact that Israel must fight an enemy that intentionally uses civilians, hospitals, places of worship, and schools as a shield for terrorists.
I believe that most of us, as Israelis and Jews, care about every civilian casualty on both sides of the fence. No one in Israel pursues relentless war against those who, for 62 years, have sought to destroy us. Israel simply defends itself.
As a photojournalist and a humanitarian, often speaking to government officials and foreign journalists, I’ve noticed that the casualties in Sderot are rarely, if ever, mentioned.
After four years of personal experience on the front lines of the ‘media war’, I know that once casualties are mentioned, the other side always compares the numbers to the Gaza narrative and changes the focus to what they call “disproportionate deaths”.
This manipulation lets the Palestinian advocates avoid dealing with the underlying cause of death on all sides: the “total war” ideology that calls for the destruction of Israel and of the Jews and vows to continue until their goal is achieved.
The intention and purpose of the aerial attacks launched from Gaza is to kill and traumatize as many civilians as possible. When Israel responds, it does so by pinpointing the target itself and never the civilian population.
While Israelis train children to run to bomb shelters in 15 seconds, the Palestinian leaders train their children to run to roof tops and to become a shahid (martyr) because it plays well in the media.
What about the victims of Hamas rocket terrorism?
The Forgotten Qassam Victim: The Yaakov Yaakobov Family
On Thursday, November 11, 2010, I visited the Yaakobov family, an immigrant family from the Kavkaz mountains in the former USS.
Four years have passed since the father of the family, Yaakov, was killed by a Hamas missile that struck in the Sderot Industrial Zone factory where he was working. Yaakov died from that direct hit on November 21st, 2006, the first day of the month of Kislev.
Three months before Yaakov’s death, I moved to Sderot and started my Journalism studies at Sapir college. The November 21st attack was the first massive barrage I had ever experienced. Witnessing this attack, and learning of Yaakov’s death, changed my life. Rather than pursuing a degree in Journalism, I decided to put my focus on informing the world about what was going on in Sderot.
Four years later, I went to visit the Yaakobov family to pay respects. Arriving at their home, I didn’t even recognize their neighborhood at first. The whole area has turned into a construction zone, with three-storey-high cement bomb shelters attached to the very old apartment buildings that make up this section of Sderot.
“The whole area has turned into a construction zone, with three-storey-high cement bomb shelters attached to the very old apartment buildings that make up this section of Sderot.”
Over the past several years I’ve stayed in touch with the Yaakobov family members and with Yaakov’s son Chanan, who was 12 years old when his father died. I got to know Chanan in a summer camp and theater program in the United States that the Sderot Media Center organized in 2007. Chanan is turning 16 on Tuesday November 16th.
I’m bothered by the fact that Chanan’s father will never be part of his life and that his death is considered insignificant by those who focus on Israel’s “disproportionate” response to terrorism. In 2008, two years after his father was killed, Chanan spoke at the yearly ceremony for terrorist victims and fallen soldiers. He was 14 years old at the time and said he was starting to forget the way his father’s face looked.
Chanan Yaakobov and Father Yakov Z”L in photo Chanan and Noam Bedein
Now, four years after Yaakov’s death, his wife, Purim, had trouble getting a quorum of ten men to the grave for her sons to make Kadish. A small ceremony was held at their home, with a few family members.
Purim was glad to see me and said that I was the only one who called her to see how she was doing. With Purim’s permission, I’m posting her email and asking others to let her know that there are people who still remember and care about her and her family.
I also ask those who have the means to assist in furnishing the family’s new bomb shelter bedroom with new book shelves, closets, bed, and an air-conditioner. Maybe even inviting the family for a vacation.
Perhaps someone would like to surprise Chanan, the 16 year old, with a nice birthday present, reminding him that he, his father, and the Yaakobov family have not been forgotten.
Noam Bedein is a photojournalist, lecturer and founder/director of Sderot Media Center. He has conducted briefings and tours for government officials, diplomats, foreign press, and students from around the world.