.I can't forget Sderot. The news described Sderot, a small city dangerously close to enemy lines, as a besieged town, terrorized by thousands of Kasam rockets since 2007; as many as 60 some days last summer. During Operation Protective Edge the rain of rockets was constant, leaving residents unable to live or work safely.
The source of the rockets was Gaza, a strip of premium land given over, by Israel, to the Palastinian Authority; it was an arrangement of land for peace in 2005. Beautiful homes, park and agricultural projects were given up only to deteriorate and to be turned into launching pads for rockets. Israeli's were deceived; the hope for peace turned into a regular reign of terror.
We, along with Real, a BFP partner, hopped the bus to ride an hour and a half, seeing harvested fields slip by; all looked peaceful. Stewart and Etti invited us to visit their beloved town. They run a food distribution centre, HOPE FOR SDEROT (http://www.hopeforsderot.com/). We arrived and immediately saw the effects of the war.....a city left with the obvious effects of Kasam rockets that had left their mark. The police station has collected a few, to be touched and held by those who are in disbelief. The sheer weight of each is unbelievable; the potential of damage understandable.
We drove to the outer edge of the town, seeing Gaza within walking distance. There too, live people who have been deceived, at one time persuaded that Hamas would govern them well. They too live in terror. Ahead of us lay the open field where 13 terrorists emerged from a tunnel dug for the purpose of destruction. Instead they met their own deadly fate. I couldn't help but wonder if the 13 were coerced, forced and promised a heavenly reward in the event of death? In any case, they became martyr's and hero's. They were lost to fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives and children. Did anyone love them enough to dissuade them? Did they not love themselves enough to say "NO" to dictatorship and oppression? How did they become voiceless? How and why did they give up their freedom? We stood and lingered, suddenly becoming aware that we could well be a visible sniper's target. (The post may not have provided adequate protection! :)
The town looks like a war zone....because it is. Every apartment has been equipped with a bomb shelter added to the exterior of the apartment block. Schools buildings have been covered with large steel structures; the yard itself sports numerous bomb shelters for coverage during recess. In city parks, right in the midst of all the play structures, are colorfully camouflaged bomb shelters for the children. Across the city, every bus stop is a shelter. We look around and see rocket- pocked buildings & streets. The worst damage would be witnessed the following day as we offered our services of help and hope at the food bank. We joined Stewart & Etti, along with several others for whom the manual work and the fellowship with others was their weekly therapy session. As we laid out and packaged bags of rice, sugar, canned vegetable and bottles of oil, the stories began to pour out.
Miriam volunteers regularly; for her it is therapeutic. Her husband, like other men in the city, is suffering severely from Accumulative Post-Trauma Disorder, unable to find the initiative to perform everyday work duties. The family income is largely reduced, creating much stress on a marriage relationship. To remain super vigilant takes an emotional toll. The women and children are fearful of going outdoors, choosing to remain inside. To move from Sderot, to a safer area, would be defeat, says Miriam. "Israel is our country; our house is here. There are no options."
And so life goes on.....fearfully. The playgrounds are quieter. Everyone is on high alert....at all times. Sadness is palpable. Rick and I walk away towards the bus stop. There we leave the reality behind. Except it doesn't leave us.