Amid the worst Palestinian rocket strike so far this year, Jewish residents endure school closings and flee to bomb shelters, while the Israeli government offers hope in the form of its Iron Dome missile defense system.
Vitolda Nahshonov, 15, is one of 10 teens brought to Los Angeles from Sderot by the Israeli Leadership Club and the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles to share her story of what it's like to live under constant attack from Qassam rockets. What follows is an edited version of our conversation.
With Israel still facing Hamas rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip following the end of the army's limited ground operation there, the Israeli government is considering stronger follow-up measures.
If Israel relaunches its invasion of Gaza, no one should blame it. A country must do everything it can to protect its citizens from constant attack. I know it's been said, but it bears repeating: No other country in the world would countenance even a single missile crossing its borders and landing on its citizens. Much less 7,000 missiles.
After a Qassam rocket attack seriously injured two brothers in the Israeli border town of Sderot, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert again came under intense pressure to launch a major military strike against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Just as the IDF works constantly to keep a small patch within Gaza clear of terrorists, so, too, Hamas makes efforts every day to get through, over or under the fence -- and to engage the IDF. Hamas' success rate has been minimal, he says, and their casualties significant, "but they're still coming, still trying, every day."
Jews invariably differ on their feelings toward Israel, whether discussing its place in their hearts or the policies of the current government or the rightful borders of the nation. But nothing unifies quite like military conflict. War awakens Diaspora communities and arouses Israeli affinities.
It is called the Six-Day War because it was over in six days. Yeah, right. The war is not over. The truth is, not even the battlefields are silent.
With no end in sight to Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli civilians near the border with Gaza, the Israeli government is preparing for a long struggle against radical, Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists.
It's a smooth car ride to Sderot. There's very little traffic on this Sunday between Jerusalem and the battered city. Sunflower fields line the road and then the vast prairies of the Negev; it's difficult to fathom that only a few kilometers away rockets are raining.
Three videos from Sderot.
More than a week of unabated Qassam rocket attacks on Sderot has created a huge policy dilemma for the Israeli government: What should it do to stop radical Gaza-based terrorists from firing missiles on Israeli civilians and causing pandemonium in the border town of 22,000.
On May 20, Operation LifeShield, a nonprofit organization founded to provide emergency relief from missile attacks in Israel, unveiled in Jerusalem its transportable bomb shelters, dubbed "LifeShields," for use in public areas such as parks, school, playgrounds, hospitals and busy intersections. Each shelter is made of 12-inch-thick steel-reinforced concrete, is large enough to accommodate 30 people and is built to withstand direct hits from both Qassam and Katyusha rockets.
Driven from their homes by Qassam rockets, Eimvet Yitao and her colleagues from a Sderot day care center gathered under the shade of a sprawling tree at an army center in Givat Olga, swapping stories of their fears.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villagairosa reassured Eli Moyal, Mayor of Sderot, of his continued support Friday, after Palestinian rocket attacks forced a partial evacuation of the city.
There are some, however, who will not share our sense of security this year. These people, although they live in the homeland of the Jewish people, will not be singing joyful songs with full gusto or reclining in freedom with the same sense of relaxation as royalty this coming Passover -- they are the citizens of the city of Sderot.
Sderot is far, by Israeli standards, from the country's more prosperous center. But in the last six years, it has found itself unwittingly on one of the front lines of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its location, about two miles from the Gaza border, has made Sderot an easy target for terrorists' Qassam rockets. Before a surprise and partial truce went into effect about a week ago, fighting had escalated, especially in recent months, between the Israeli army and Palestinian terrorist groups.