A few days ago, I turned on the TV to catch the day’s news. The story shaking the nation: “[MK Esterina] Tartman doesn’t have a master’s degree,” contrary to what was listed at her party’s website. Seven minutes were dedicated to the report. Seven seconds were dedicated to five rockets fired from Gaza at Sderot and Ashkelon.
Since the beginning of the ceasefire on November 26 three months ago, over 160 rockets were fired towards Sderot and the Western Negev. Since the Mecca Agreement, the average is 1.8 rocket attacks per day. Last Tuesday, Hamas “Foreign Minister” Khaled Mashaal visited Moscow and promised to cease the Qassam firing. Since then, seven rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel.
Bernard Lewis, a leading expert on Islam, says: “Our situation today is worse than it was in 1940… In 1940 we knew who our enemies were, and we knew who we were… Today, on the other hand, we don’t know who our enemies are, and who we are.”
The main headline of the Ma’ariv newspaper’s weekend edition, after last summer’s Lebanon war, read: “This war has no symbol.” The widespread feeling is that people don’t know who they’re fighting for, and for what reason. What solution can be given to the Russian Roulette reality, which includes the firing of over 6,000 rockets into Israel for the last six years? The country has accepted the fact that rockets are being fired at it, and has to decide what 900 million shekels ($220 million) should be invested in: Should Israel invest the money in protecting the houses of the 8,000 Western Negev residents, or should the money be invested in a anti short-range rocket system, which will take approximately two years to develop?
What other western democratic country in the world would have allowed a reality like ours to persist?
On February 7, the Sderot Parents Association went to the Supreme Court and demanded the protection of all classrooms, in all 24 educational institutions in the town. The country, for its part, agrees to protect only the first to third grades, claiming that the other classes can settle for protected areas outside, and which children can get to on their own.
Is there a parent that can imagine the feeling of sending an 8-year-old boy to study in an unprotected classroom, while an average of 1.8 rockets are fired daily from Gaza towards Sderot and the Western Negev, even during days of “ceasefire”? And on standard days, when approximately 3.2 rockets are fired? No one can expect an 8-year-old boy to run through the school corridors along with 70 other children and reach the safe areas outside in less than 15 seconds, after hearing the tzeva adom (color red) alarm. What should one tell an 8-year-old boy who wants to go back to third grade because the classroom there is protected?
As a resident of Sderot, who has lived in this town for the past half year, I realize that it makes no difference whether the rockets hit an open area or the town itself. When that alarm goes off, you realize that you have 15 seconds to take cover. No one takes risks today; no one can say, “It won’t happen to me.”
During a visit to the security officer’s office in Sderot, I noticed that the town’s map was hanging on the wall, and that there were dots marking the rockets’ landing points. The security officer explained that he had stopped marking dots on the map two years ago, because if he had continued, it would have been impossible to tell that the map was of Sderot.
There is no neighborhood, no street, no family, no child in Sderot, who has not experienced a rocket attack somewhere nearby. Over 3,600 trauma cases have been opened, from the rocket attacks alone.
The media neglects to mention that rockets are being launched at Sderot and Ashkelon from areas in the northern Gaza Strip that Israel evacuated during the Disengagement.
The website of Izadeen Al-Qassam Brigades, a branch of Hamas, makes it clear that from its point of view, all Israeli communities are “settlements”: “In response to the occupation forces’ attack on the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian resistance declared that it fired two rockets towards the Zionist Sderot settlement. Hamas’ military wing generously offered to stop firing Qassam rockets in return for the evacuation of Sderot.”
When the usual report is broadcast over the radio or television, saying, “Two Qassam rockets hit an open area nearby Sderot. No one was injured, there was no damage, a trauma victim was evacuated, and now the weather report,” can the meaning of “anxiety” or “trauma” be grasped?
The news media dedicate seven seconds to the constant rocket firing towards Israel, and seven minutes to the lies of a Knesset Member.
That is the bubble of Israeli radio, TV and newspapers, the bubble in which most Israelis live. In Sderot, that bubble burst long ago.