As President Bush made his first historic landing to Israel on Jan. 9, people around the world watched the warm welcome that the President received from the Israeli Prime Minister and other government officials. In the small city of Sderot, Israel, the embattled residents, victims of daily rocket attacks, watched with hopeful anticipation.
“This could be a chance for peace,” says Reshef Peretz, a young business owner in Sderot. “Bush brings me the hope that something unbelievable might take place. Perhaps there will be an end to the rockets after all.”
However the hope and optimism echoed here among the residents the previous day faded quickly early Wednesday morning, as rockets came crashing down on the town.
As I watched President Bush shake hands with Prime Minister Olmert on TV, I was interrupted by the Tzeva Adom (red alert) siren warning of an impending rocket attack. My co-workers and I ran to our office bomb shelter, and a few seconds later we heard a terrible boom. Across the street, half a kilometer away, two rockets exploded upon our neighbors’ homes.
I was scheduled to tour Sderot that morning with a CBS crew coming to film the area for the local WCBS TV station in New York. Plans quickly changed, as the crew filmed the two homes which had been hit and interviewed the Sderot family who narrowly escaped the explosion.
When CBS newscaster Lou Young arrived at the scene, he found a young mother and her three-weekoold baby in complete shock. Both had narrowly escaped death, as they had made it just in time to the bomb-shelter in their home when the siren sounded.
“I can’t speak right now,” said Ayelet Dahan, the shocked mother. “We were saved by a miracle.”
As we climb to the second floor of Ayelet and her husband’s home, we discover that the room of their eight-year-old son, Sali, has been completely destroyed by the rocket hit. The roof caved into his bed from the force of the rocket. Little is left of Sali’s teddy bear and toys.
As time passed, other members of the Dahan family began to arrive to the scene. The Dahan family is one of the largest families in Sderot with nine brothers and sisters all married and living in the town. The grandparents also live in Sderot, and this is not the first time a Dahan home has been hit.
“I wonder if Bush wills see this attack on the news tonight?” Ayelet’s brother-in-law, Eliezer Dahan, asked.
Meanwhile, Sderot official Shalom HaLevy explained to the CBS crew that it is no coincidence that these Palestinian terror groups have decided to so intensely strike Sderot on the day Bush arrives to Israel. “”Bush must come to visit Sderot,” he said. “Hamas and Fatah’s notions of peace must be considered by Bush as well.”
Meanwhile the CBS crew decides that they want to film from the viewpoint outside Sderot, where one can see the direction of the rocket launching in Gaza. We were en route when another ‘red alert’ siren sounded, at which point we pulled over and ran to a shabby-looking bomb shelter across the street. Another Sderot local joined us and, upon realizeing we were Americans, stateed “Bush is here,” as if to explain why we were standing in the bomb shelter together.
After the second siren, we heard another boom, and the news crew decided to follow the direction of the boom. We followed a fire truck to the site where the rockets fell, A public housing complex. It was complete chaos as ambulances and police cars arrived on scene to help the shell-shocked residents. Even as the CBS crew filmed the scene, people rushed out of their homes to see the damage, children cried, the elderly trembled.
As we all observed the scene, another Tzeva Adom siren sounded. All of us, children, adults, and ambulance personnel, scrambled to find a bomb shelter for safety. I found myself separated from the news crew, running into the home of a stranger, who kindly lead me and about 10 other strangers to his family’s bomb shelter.
I felt panic rise in me as we tensely wait for the booms of the rocket.
After the siren ended, I found the news crew and found out the rocket had struck a nearby kibbutz. As we headed to the kibbutz, I wondered if the day would ever end.
Fortunately, despite the 20 rockets that have fallen on the western Negev region and the many cases of shock caused by the attacks, only one person experienced light physical injuries. The CBS news crew looked worn out, but said they have been in worse situations.
I personally wonder what could be worse that what we have witnessed happening in this small town today. Knowing these innocent residents will continue to experience this rocket terror even after Bush leaves Israel, makes the reality of this region dangerously uncertain.
Anav Silverman is a 2004 Calais High School graduate. She works in the Sderot Media Center and is a student at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel.