Part I: And Then It Truly Hit Me
I felt so relaxed, so peaceful, so safe.
It was early Friday afternoon, the blue sky was crystal clear and flowers were beginning to blossom as I walked through the quiet streets of Sderot. Sderot is a hilly, sleepy, picturesque town; the kind of place that lulls you into an expansive state of dream-filled musing and reflection.
And then it hit me. I knew why I felt so serene, but why did I feel so safe? After all, at any moment the towns Red Alert siren could suddenly begin to blare its’ warning that a missile was headed our way, and that we all had-at best-fifteen seconds to get to a shelter. But not to worry, because everywhere I looked, I could see a bomb shelter. If a missile had been launched my way, I was safe.
Sderot is dotted with playgrounds and parks and lots of children, but not to worry, because wherever kids are at play, you will find a missile proof shelter. On almost every other block there is a bus stop-but not to worry-because every one of them features an attached missile shelter. In Sderot, it’s hard to walk for ten minutes without passing a kindergarten or school-but not to worry-the soccer fields, outdoor basketball courts, and playgrounds each have their own bomb shelter. And the schools? Not to worry, each has been retrofitted with a new missile proof roof. Israel is the only country in the world that needs to install missile proof roofs over day care centers. Walking through neighborhoods of single-family homes, it was nice to see that despite the circumstances many families were building new additions onto their homes. And then it hit me. Every home in Sderot is getting a new addition. That’s right. The government is installing new missile proof rooms attached to every home in Sderot. How lovely.
The next day, at Shabbat lunch, Shlomo told me about the day he was driving with three of his small children, when suddenly the Red Alert sounded, and the fifteen-second countdown began. He knew that he could only carry two children at once, and so the youngest, who would hopefully never remember being left behind in her car seat, remained alone while Shlomo carried the others to the safety of a shelter. He held his two children tight, and prayed that the missile would not find the third.
And then it really hit me. Standing on a hill at the edge of town, looking out at the Gaza Strip less than a mile away, I realized that people in the cities and towns of Gaza also feel safe-but for a very different reason. When it comes to missiles, the Muslim residents in Gaza are a mirror image of the Jewish residents of Sderot. In Sderot, a town that has suffered 7,000 missile attacks in the last seven years, the possibility of an incoming missile always lurks in the back of every mother’s mind-and every one else’s too. In Gaza, it would never occur to anyone that a Jew in Israel might, at any moment, randomly fire a missile towards their home, or their child’s school. And then it truly hit me… How fortunate we are to be Jews; especially now, and especially in Sderot.
ãShimon Apisdorf 4/2/09
In Memory of Shlomo Nativ z’l, age 13
Brutally murdered today by a Muslim terrorist with an axe