Getting into college seemed like the finish line for me. After I purchased school supplies and made my dorm-room bed the rest would be down hill. What I did not predict was that one morning I would wake up and realize I had no idea what I was doing with my life. Declaring a major had once looked like cement for my life ahead and yet I felt as if the road was going nowhere.
When my university’s Hillel advertised an upcoming presentation by Sderot Media Center’s Jacob Shrybman on life of Sderot residents living under rocket fire, I knew I simply could not miss it. I spent the majority of the presentation glued to the screen unable to fathom the fact that this was being tolerated. Months later I found myself entering Tel Aviv’s Tachanah Merchazit (Central Bus Station) and being directed to the Sderot bus terminal. I walked past the eager lines amidst clouds of cigarette smoke pushing towards the door at every free inch until I reached the last gate, completely empty. The barren walls and rejected benches caused me to reevaluate what I thought I was ready for. Why was no one else going to Sderot? Why was I going to Sderot?
I spent the bus ride determined to document every moment of the trip. I started by filming the final view of the departing gate and turned the camera to my face to capture my terrified expression. I sat directly behind the bus at every stop locked eyes with her, waiting for the cue of arrival.
A nearby passenger nudged me as we reached the center of the quaint town. As I jumped off the bus, I saw the nearest bus stop with “Bomb Shelter” written above the opening. I wasn’t reading the newspaper, listening to a presentation, or watching the news anymore. I was really there, in the infamous town of Sderot.
I waited in the center of town for Jacob Shrybman to retrieve me. The absence of my typical pre-job nerves was surprising. In truth, the anticipation to see Jacob’s familiar face seemed like a life raft at that point. I began to think back to joking with my brothers prior to my departure to Israel. “This is Sarah before she goes to Israel,” my eldest brother said as he stood normally with hands at his sides. “And this is Sarah after she comes back from Israel,” acting injured he hid his lower leg behind him and cocked his neck to the side. The unimaginable physical damage was easy to laugh at previously, however the reality of the physical and mental damage was not so funny anymore.
Within moments of meeting Jacob, I jumped into a car with the staff of the Sderot Media Center and resisted the urge to put my seat belt on (in Sderot, it is common to be unbuckled in case of a siren). I was welcomed by Sderot Media Center Director Noam Bedein, “Welcome to our rocket-chasing car,” he said as I shook his hand. As Jacob clued me in on some of the passing sights, I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear-view mirror- I was sheet-white.
We parked in a crowded parking lot and made our way to lunch at Sapir College. I found myself in-sync with the others, ready to follow them with every move. Walking through campus we passed students lounging on the grass and sipping coffee at picnic tables. I couldn’t help but be surprised. Prior to coming, I pictured the residents with hesitant expressions and panic-stricken eyes. I imagined terrorized buildings propped up on the distressed ground. How could they continue to enjoy life while in constant fear of what may lay ahead? Where was the fear that I believed to have dominated the air?
As I packed my bag to head back to the bus stop at the end of the day, I questioned Jacob about the schedule for the week ahead. “The British Ambassador is coming tomorrow around ten and we’ll need you to film the visit.” I nodded my head and tried to show serenity and control on the outside but my stomach dropped. I waved goodbye to the office, boarded my bus, and collapsed into the nearest seat. “Today,” I thought to myself “I started my dream summer.”