Where as Gaza is getting plenty of attention in the news of late, there isn’t so much sympathy for the people of Sderot, an otherwise seemingly quiet town with neat gardens at the side of the roads but has to put up with regular Katusha rocket fire from terrorists in Gaza.
Meaning Boulevard in Hebrew, Sderot is a place I visited last September during my first season in Israel, not part of my normal job, but when given the chance to go there I thought it would be interesting to see a place closer to conflict than Jerusalem and to see things as they really are without the aid of television or internet.
Getting there we would be met by a local man who is actually in British but has lived in Israel for 30 years and in Sderot for most of that time. He played this audio track of some wailing on his mobile phone, this was the sound to expect if there was a rocket attack, when this happens the people in this town have 15 seconds only to get to a bomb shelter. People are allowed to drive their cars without seatbelts in Sderot to give them a chance to get out and run to a shelter (on bus stops) next to a street if necessary.
Outside the police station here in Sderot, most of the rockets are collected and are on display for people to see. A lot of these are thought to have been manufactured in Iran. There are some larger more sophisticated ones which have hit a large radius like the neighbouring cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon. Without adequate security around Gaza, much more powerful weapons would get in (and probably do through the tunnels) and threaten the whole country and could hit Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, which is why roadblocks and strict inspection of trucks is a very necessary business.
Here this town is otherwise very pleasant and clean looking place, the regular threats seem to give people a more community spirit I guess.
This a typical bomb shelter, a public one. Some of these you see attached to peoples houses as a home improvement, not unlike people getting a conservatory built back in the UK.
Because of the regular attacks here, although deaths or serious injuries from rockets do happen but not that often, children cannot sleep in fear, and mental health disorders are common, as well damage to people’s houses and cars. Unemployment is high here, but no Olympic sized swimming pools or fancy restaurants which Gaza has.
The Katuysha rockets are fairly crude by modern day weapons in the fact they are not accurate, and so fired indiscriminately not at a specific target like a military installation. In fact we were told that often the most common time the rockets happen is during children going to or from school. At least a basketball ground here as a concrete roof on top, just like this school here on the left.
Our aim was to help decorate some peoples houses here and as Christians show love to this neglected community. The first people we helped was a large static caravan which was on a farm which was in quite poor condition which we painted up. The next was for a young Orthodox man who was about the same age as me and was disabled, we painted and plastered his house. I got a chance to learn and practice plastering holes in walls which is quite fun and easy once you get used to it. Later once we finished painting, we got a chance to watch a movie ‘Don’t mess with the Zohan‘ a comedy filmed in Israel starring Adam Sandler.
Without being hasty and under the expertise of our local friend, he took us out in his car up to the border with Gaza, this was a very interesting visit that no normal tourist would ever get to see.
Here there is a small military base to watch for rockets and other terrorist activity. A small blimp (Zeppelin type balloon, not pictured) is up high tethered to the ground, this is not manned but has a camera and solider on the ground is alerted if a rocket is fired and the alarm is sounded to warn the people in the town. On the right is an interesting peace monument (sorry I can’t remember who provided it) in the form of a musical instrument. The buildings in the background is Gaza. There is also a water reservoir close by.
Really no community in the world would ever put up with rockets fired on them regularly over the last few years, I think Israel shows a lot more restraint that many other nations would if treated like this.
If you lived or been to my home city of Portsmouth UK, Sderot and the Gaza strip are as close together a Gunwharf Quays and Gosport, this is less than a mile in between.
Before we went home on the last day, the man we stayed with took us out for a meal in a restaurant on the pier on the nearby biblical city of Ashkelon.
This was an interesting weekend and I would like to do it again sometime this year maybe.
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