I arrived in Israel late on Friday afternoon. After a four and a half hour flight from London and a surprisingly quick trip through border control I found myself in Ben Gurion airport, to be greeted by staff from the Sderot Media Center and then to travel South to the town of Sderot.
Originally intending to take public transportation I was informed that no such transport would exist, since arriving at this time on the Friday meant the Shabbat had already begun. After being collected at the airport, the drive from Tel Aviv to Sderot was relatively shorter than I had first anticipated.
After this journey, and after being pointed out the location of Jerusalem from a hill in Sderot the following day, I soon realised the size of Israel is small even compared to my homeland – Scotland.
By the time we had reached Sderot, it was dark. My arrival in the town was welcomed by a large meal, and consequently the sound of the rocket alarm I had heard much about. Immediately everyone stopped what they were doing, and I was ushered into the apartment’s safe room. Here we stayed for a short time until it was safe, before returning to our meal. Hearing this for the first time was quite a surreal experience I found. Having never encountered anything like this in Britain it became clear how, despite constant security procedures and fears many have of terrorist attacks in Britain, there is no such reality of attacks as there is here in Sderot.And from this first experience, it seemed like this was almost second nature to the residents – A kind of routine, but of course an unwelcome one.
For me however, a slightly frightening and alien experience – even after reading much of Sderot’s never ending threat of rocket attacks from Gaza, the high quantity of bomb shelters and the 15 seconds the residents get from the alarm sounding, I could not have anticipated the true reality of it.
The following day I was able to get my first proper glimpse of the town. After being driven through the town I was shown the extent to which residents of Sderot must adapt their everyday lives to the threat of rocket attacks. Bomb-proof apartments being built and fortified schools; bomb shelters residing on almost every street and bus stop.
Necessities of Sderot, but an unfamiliar sight for myself. Growing up in a small village on a remote island, I was never really subject to any kind of violence or danger within any sort of close proximity. I was able to roam as I wished and be free from the danger many children may experience from growing up in a larger town or city.
In this respect, I find it almost impossible to imagine what it would be like to have grown up in Sderot – Growing up with the knowledge that someone is firing rockets towards my home. I would believe this to be an almost incomprehensible thought for a child. Though there is always an awareness of wars and violence in a child’s mind I believe this should not be a reality they are subject to. Continuing right through the town, we eventually reached the end of the town.
From the top of a small hill I was shown the true proximity of the source of this threat. Gaza city was clearly visible across a a couple of roads and a length of empty fields. Fields which I learnt were cleared of trees by the IDF to reveal the location some of these rockets are fired from. Standing in between these two places, on the edge of Sderot, seeing the distance between the final row of houses in Sderot and the beginning of buildings in Gaza helped put it all in perspective for me – perhaps a small distance separates these two places but a vast expanse seems to separate the people.
A separation created by over sixty years of conflict and little sign of a much needed solution.