August 23, 2007
Shabbat in Sderot beneath a canopy of Qassams
(Page 4 - Previous Page)"For us and all of those who love the State of Israel, it is essential that we get the things we need so people don't leave Sderot," said Shimon Peretz, the city's director-general. "If we leave, Sderot will be the first to fall, and following Sderot will be Ashdod and Ashkelon." ::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Smaller than a walk-in closet, the white bomb shelter with the blue door trim is stocked with two small beanbag chairs, a flannel blanket, a pillow and a pink-and-blue "My Own Beauty Vanity."
Immediately outside the portable shelter stands a netless soccer goal. This patch of browning grass rimmed by houses is the only place children are allowed to play soccer now, the larger field fenced off because it was too far from emergency cover.
"It's a sh--ty life," Marcell says. "That's not the way it's supposed to be. But it's life."
Everybody struggles differently with the reality.
Dana struggled to sleep, lost 20 pounds and developed low blood iron after a Qassam landed a few meters away while she was lying out by the kibbutz pool.
When Kelly was in the army last year, she didn't want to come home on the weekends and started sleeping under her bed when she got out.
And Gabi, for two weeks this summer, woke up most nights sprinting for the center of the house. Marcell found him there one morning about 2 a.m., curled into a ball with a sheet over his head.
"Gabi," she asked, "what are you doing?"
"There was a tzeva adom. There was a tzeva adom."
There hadn't been, but such fears are fomented by an existence so precarious that people are afraid to close their eyes lest they slumber through a rocket warning. Showers and sex also are problematic: No one wants emergency workers discovering their bruised bodies naked in the bathroom or cleaved to a lover. And under such circumstances, who's going to hear the alarm?
"One day, I walked into the shower and I heard 'tzeva adom,'" says Sigal Yisrael, a teacher at Gabi's school, Shaar HaNegev Elementary. "I had to decide real fast to go out or to stay in. I just covered myself with a towel and looked down at my legs to make sure they were shaved." ::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Why then does anyone stay in Sderot?
Like many in this area, the Bar-Ons have tried leaving. They skipped from kibbutz to kibbutz, even fled to Marcell's native South Africa for a few months. But, at the end of the day, they're stuck in the area like most everyone else here.
Property values have tanked for homeowners -- who would want to buy a home in an area where predictability has become so unpredictable? And for those on the kibbutzim, homeownership is a misnomer. As members of a cooperative community, families like the Bar-Ons "own" their house as long as they remain part of the kibbutz. But the title is not truly theirs, and if they were to leave, they would receive a payout from the kibbutz and have little equity to start over.
"I used to watch the news during the Bosnian War, and I'd see these guys running to work with briefcases, trying to avoid the snipers," Marcell says. "I used to think, 'How can people allow themselves to live like that?' And now I'm doing the same thing, and I understand: It's a lack of choice."
Music video dedicated to the children of Sderot
To help those living in Sderot, you can donate to:
o The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (323) 761-8200
o The Jewish Agency for Israel (866) 247-9304, ext. 4908
o American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (212) 687-6200
o Chabad Sderot Relief Fund
o Connections Israel