So, I was walking up the street in Sderot today, having just got off the bus from Tel Aviv, and as I meandered up the road I realised that there wasn’t a bomb shelter in sight! There was one at the bus stop – in fact the bus stop was a bomb shelter – and I knew there was one near to where I was headed. However, as an ex rugby prop forward I was never the speediest man around the pitch and it rapidly dawned on me that I was considerably more than 15 seconds away from relative safety!
So you start to look around you and you start to wonder. I could run to the nearest house. But who is going to answer the door? I’m pretty sure that they don’t wire the doorbell up to the bomb shelter. And if you were holed-up in a shelter with a red alert sounding would you leave to answer the door? Not a chance in hell. What if it was a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses! Now there’s a mental image… two dumb-struck Witnesses stood there with a Qassam piercing their copy of WatchTower. Come to think, it might be just about the only way to get them to stop talking!
So a house is out. What next? A shop? Well most of the shops here look like a bomb has already hit them so surely lightning can’t strike twice! But then I thought shops have large glass windows at the front – flying shards of razor-sharp glass and my soft English complexion simply don’t mix. But then I had a brainwave. Ordinarily, shop windows are used to entice passers-by to look in and see the beautiful goodies on sale inside. Not in Israel. Here shop windows are much better used as store rooms where a rocket-proof myriad of dusty stock, and other stuff of an indeterminate nature, is crammed into the space where the beautifully coutured mannequins should be….well,why pay rent for a shop and a store room when you can combine the two for only one convenient monthly payment. I had found my safe haven. Until it dawned on me that the nearest shop was a hardware store and all I could hear myself saying was “DIY…DIY….Do it Yourself….nail bomb!”
The options for safety were becoming fewer and fewer. Then I spied my shelter….a wheelie bin. The people paid to touch them don’t even go near them so surely a volunteer Hamas terrorist isn’t going to be seen dead sending one of his rockets into one.
OK, enough is enough, I think you get my point – what the hell do I do if the Qassam hits the fan and I’m not in spitting distance of a shelter, which is the case for most people, especially in the new target cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon! There simply aren’t enough shelters and hundreds of thousands of people are left exposed to the nightmare of hearing a siren and not having anywhere safe to go. Perhaps some of the house building companies around Europe, who are probably sat twiddling their thumbs in the present economic climate could find some opportunities here.
And on the subject of building, or more precisely rebuilding, there are a multitude of houses, schools and other structures that need rebuilding after being hit by missiles. On average it takes about a year for the houses wrecked by Qassams to be repaired and made liveable in once again and yet the holes in the street caused by fallen missiles are filled with fresh concrete in less than two hours! Incredible, if somewhat misplaced, proactivity by the local authorities – perhaps homes should be given priority over a navigable sidewalk.
Talking of hearing sirens, I happened across two deaf men on my way to another evening of absolute nothingness. There really is very little to do here in Sderot. Not because the good people of Sderot don’t like to go out and have fun. They do. But because it became an exercise in pointlessness to go out for an evening meal when the likelihood is that the steak you wanted cooked rare has been burnt to a cinder because the chef is holed-up in a shelter.
However, I digress. Back to the deaf men and hearing sirens.
Exactly. What the hell do they do! Fortunately, they are issued with vibrating pagers that buzz maniacally when the Tzeva Adom (Red Alert) sounds, let’s just hope they contain long-life batteries!