HE Caspar Veldkamp holding a Kassam rocket in Sderot police station.
Photo Credit: Calum Toogood

On Thursday Sderot Media Centre hosted the Dutch ambassador, Caspar Veldkamp, for a visit to the town. Arriving early in the afternoon he was greeted at the centre and given a basic overview of the day before the tour of Sderot began.

The ambassador’s first visit of the day was to Sapir College. At the college he was told about the unique situation of the college which, located in the area of Sderot, is often subject to rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. The buildings of the college however are heavily fortified against these rockets.

After being informed about the educational aspects and qualities of this institution, the ambassador was then given a tour of the college’s radio station – Kol Hanegev. An educational radio station operated by Sapir’s students. After a look inside the station’s recording studios and having met some of the students who run Kol Hanegev, the ambassador was taken to the next stop of his tour in Sderot.

Back in the town he arrived at the Sderot Indoor Recreation Centre – A heavily fortified indoor playground which provides a safe environment for the children of Sderot to play in. The building is located in a converted warehouse in the town’s industrial area. It was in this setting which the Dutch ambassador would meet with the Mayor of Sderot, David Buskila.

Showing the ambassador around the centre, he was taken into the main area as well as some of the many shelters in the building. Ushered into one of these rooms, the ambassador was then seated for the screening of a documentary film made by the Sderot Media Centre. The film gave an overview of the situation of the town regarding the Palestinian rocket attacks. It highlighted the short amount of time residents have to reach a bomb shelter once there is an alert of an incoming rocket – fifteen seconds.

After a short stop at the Media Centre, the ambassador’s tour then took him to the Sderot Police Station. Here the police have accumulated a large collection of the rockets which have been fired at Sderot. Told of the different types of rockets, the ambassador then got the chance to see the extent of how many hit the area as well as the condition which they are in after impact.

To see the proximity of the area which this threat arises from, the ambassador was then taken to a hill in the West of the town. From here the Gaza Strip is clearly visible.

To give the ambassador an idea of some of the organisations and institutions in the town, he was then to be shown a local coffee shop next to the town’s cinema. Here, a group works to help teenagers in Sderot by providing them with a chance to work in the coffee shop as well as a place to go and socialise. The group aims to support the teenagers in education as well as teaching them valuable life skills and supporting them emotionally.

After a walk through the town centre, the next stop for the ambassador was at Sderot’s yeshiva. The Hesder Yeshiva is an Israeli program which provides citizens with a chance to study alongside their compulsory army service. The ambassador was shown inside their rocket-proof study hall and from here given a chance to see students participating in their studies.

He was then led to the roof of the building. On the roof of the yeshiva building, one of the tallest buildings in Sderot, a Menorah has been constructed out of Qassam rockets which have hit the surrounding area. The ambassador was given a talk on the history of this institution and the incidents which they have experienced. He was then given the opportunity to light candles on the Qassam Menorah before moving on to another of Sderot’s communities.

HE Veldkamp lighting the Hesder Yeshiva Sderot Channukia

Sderot is home to one of few of the nation’s urban kibbutzim. Kibbutz Migvan, located on one of the town’s streets, has around eighty members. The ambassador was taken into the home of one the founders of this kibbutz, Nomika Zion. To conclude his tour, the ambassador was given a talk on the concept of the urban kibbutz, its history and how it is sustained.

In response to his tour of the area, the ambassador had this to say:

“I wanted to listen and learn from this visit to Sderot and pay tribute to its citizens, their courage and their resilience. I definitely did. No country in the world would find it acceptable to have rockets falling down on its citizens, streets, schools, shops, places of worship, factories or farms.”

The Dutch ambassador,Caspar Veldkamp, will be working in Israel for four years.

All Photo Credit: Calum Toogood


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