Terrorists fired 22 Qassam rockets at Sderot and the western Negev over the past weekend.
On Saturday, May 10, one of the rockets exploded near a residential building complex. Two people were lightly injured from rocket shrapnel and two others suffered shock. Yoav Marmur, a first year student studying communications at Sapir College was one of those injured in the attack.
Yoav was at a friend’s home, taking a nap on that Saturday afternoon, when he woke up from the rocket explosion and found himself 25 meters away from his bed. Pieces of shrapnel had struck his face.
This was not the first Qassam that had fallen on Shabbat.
I stand in the courtyard of the home Yoav was staying at the next day and look around at the wreckage. I think to myself how this Qassam was made out of a metal pole with explosives at the end and how it was launched with intent to kill.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Yoav waking around the wreckage with the flag of Israel on his back. I ask him why he is wearing the flag of Israel. “Because it feels like the right thing to do,” he says.
“The Qassam explosion caused great damage to the entire building,” he contines. ” Glass shattered, tiles were blasted off, debris and rubble everywhere.” Yoav was sleeping with his back to the window when the rocket exploded. “Just imagine what would have happened had I slept facing the window.”
Yaffa, who lives on the fourth floor of the building, tells me that it is not the first time that a Qassam has landed near their building, which has no bomb shelter or any protection. “We are saved by constant miracles,” she says. “Many more people could have been injured in this last attack.”
The residents of the building feel more and more vulnerable because they have no shelter. When Yaffa hears the Tzeva Adom alert, she takes her six children, and they run down the stairs until they reach the first floor, which is considered the safest area of the building. This is her family’s routine every time the siren sounds.
After speaking with Yaffa and Yoav, I travel to visit another area in Sderot that was damaged by a rocket attack early Saturday morning.
At 7:30 a.m., the second Qassam of the morning hit the Cohen family’s home. Sophie and Eli Cohen, both 42, celebrated their wedding anniversary this past weekend. “The blessed gift I received for our anniversary was that none of our children were hurt in the rocket attack on our home,” Sophie says.
The flowers Eli brought Sophie for their anniversary remain standing in the vase on the living room table, but are covered in dirt and dust.
Sophie speaks to us cheerfully, as if nothing has happened, as if her home hasn’t been hit by a Qassam. When I ask her where she gets her strength and optimism, she tells me that nothing can take away her happiness.
“You have to learn to find the good in everything that happens to you in life,” she says. “The children were not hurt and that is what is important.”
“Furthermore, the children will collapse if they see that we are not strong,” Eli adds.
The Cohen family have four children. Sophie tells me that when the Qassam fell she knew the rocket had hit her home. “I was fearful because I called out to my kids and they did not answer. Suddenly, I hear knocking on the front door and I see my son, Nitzan, 16, covered in dust and dirt standing there, telling me “Mom, it’s me.””
The rocket had directly hit Nitzan’s bedroom. He did not hear the siren alert because he was sleeping.
“I jump up and I see dust and debris everywhere. I try opening my bedroom door, but I can’t because I locked it the night before,” says Nitzan. “So I climb through the hole that the rocket made in the wall outside and run to the front door to the entrance of our home so I can get back in.”
“It was a miracle,” Sophie repeats. “Nitzan’s room is protected because we added another layer of cement above the ceiling. The kids therefore always use his room as the bomb shelter when the red alert siren goes off.”
The night before, Nitzan had locked his room before he went to sleep. In the morning, when the siren sounded, the entire family headed to Nitzan’s room as usual but the locked door would not open. “Instead, we went into the bathroom across the hall for shelter,” Sophie says. “Just think what would have happened, if Nitzan had not locked his room. There could have been a great tragedy.”
The congregants who were praying in the synagogue next to the Cohen’s house came out after the explosion, only to see Nitzan shaking the dust and dirt from his clothes. “This is a miracle we have to publicize,” Sophie says.
Meanwhile, the Cohen family is staying at a hotel in Ashkelon until their home will be repaired.
Next Shabbat, Nitzan and his father will go to the synagogue next door to pray Birkat Ha-Gomel, the special Jewish blessing one says when one’s life is miraculously saved.