It may have been peace and quiet now, but shrapnel wounds in the surrounding buildings and sight of bomb shelter after bomb shelter standing alongside the everyday homes, shops and restaurants were timely reminders of darker times. This trip to Sderot had really taken the Arad participants to one of the key battlegrounds in Israel’s recent history. Standing no more than a few kilometres from the Hamas controlled territory of the Gaza strip, the town had been under constant rocket fire for close to 10 years. The attacks may have dried up in the meantime; but the scars will remain for far longer.
The tour of the town was led by the head of Sderot Media; a non Governmental organisation that aims to tell the story of what has been going on in Sderot through the medium of videos and pictures. Having someone of such experience lead us round would prove to be invaluable, as the little anecdotes he was able to provide helped really paint a picture of what life was like there.
We started our tour at the local police station. Here we were able to see the reminents of just some of the rockets that have been fired into Sderot over the past 10 years – the rockets categroised by their colour that indicate the terrorist organisation responsible for them. Seeing all those rockets lying there, in the knowledge that this was only a fraction of what the town has seen really was an eye opener.
We then moved on to a children’s playground; unique to anywhere in the world. At first glance it looks like any playground you would see on the steets of New York or London – but on closer inspection it was revealed that some of the toys (such as a giant catepillar) actually doubled up as bomb shelters. The fact that children have had to grow up with this as a reality really was heart breaking, and seeing this playground brought it home.
In Sderot, when there is a rocket attack the residents have exactly 15 seconds to get to a shelter, otherwise they they can be exposed. 15 seconds…it really is nothing.
The reason for this was really brought home to us when we were taken to a viewpoint overlooking the Gaza strip. It really was so close. So close, but yet a different world in so many respects.
We concluded our tour by going for lunch in the centre of the town – something that we all really wanted to do in order to do our little bit to improve economics in Sderot, after all FZY Year Coursers in the past have been at the forefront of campaigning for awareness on behalf of he people of Sderot. It may be quiet now – but in this part of the world, who knows how long that will last for?
Click on any of the photos in this article to take you through to the FZY Year Course album to see more pictures from this siyur.