Worth a read is this Haaretz article that starts: A 13-year-old from New York has decided to give $40,000 he received from his parents for his bar mitzvah to the children of Sderot. The municipality says the money will go to build a park with recreational facilities.
A pretty amazing gesture by young Benjamin Sternklar Davis; I spent my bar mitzvah gains on camping gear, and I'm sure plenty of my peers were equally frivolous.
Also interesting is this Ynet article about an art exhibit that opened last week in Sderot, and explores "the affect of weapon systems on society and art."
Only in Israel...
The posting below is excerped from 'Baltimore Israel & Overseas', a blog from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. To read the full posting, and more from a recent visit to Ashkelon and elsewhere in Israel, click the 'more' link below.
Nearly everywhere I have visited over these past few days, I’ve seen shelter rooms. It’s not because they are intentionally shown to me to demonstrate a facility’s security preparedness, but rather they are just another room being used to meet the need for space. The only thing I can say is that it is quite sad that such rooms are necessary.
On my first day here, I went with the Diller Alumni group to the Teen Center. Downstairs on the door to the shelter room were colorfully drawn papers saying “Welcome to Our Shelter.” It was a stark reminder of the conflict with Gaza, but also a demonstration of the role that teen volunteers played during those difficult weeks. Teens through a program called AMEN spent their days playing with young children in windowless shelter rooms so they could have a safe place to stay, physically and emotionally, by planning countless activities to make the situation at least a little bit more bearable.
This blog posting about living near Gaza was contributed by Ilona Lichtenstein, 25, who moved to Israel from Belarus 19 years ago with her family. She lives at the JAFI Ibim Student Village near Sderot.
I live in Ibim, a student village which is also an absorption center for young people who have immigrated from the FSU, South America and Ethiopia. The village – which is just three minutes away from Sderot – is my home base. My days are filled with studying Human Resources at Sapir College and with coordinating a JAFI program for Lone Soldiers (soldiers whose families don’t live in Israel) which is housed right here at the village.
A Lone Soldier reunites with his mother. JAFI photo
Our village itself has not actually taken direct hits from rockets, but Kassams have fallen in close proximity and with every warning siren that goes off, we fear that this time we won’t be as lucky and we might get hit.
Currently we at the village are putting the finishing touches on increased protection for our housing so that every apartment has a “safe room.” Yet the situation remains the same – an uneasy feeling throughout the day.
Each morning when I wake up, I have this feeling of uncertainty, of not knowing what today will bring. I feel this most acutely when I go out to Sderot with some of the Lone Soldiers.
The scary uncertainty has now become routine and yet none of the residents of Ibim want to leave our village, which has become such a home for us. Although we have faced many unpleasant situations, I have grown fond of this area. I hope that it will once again be peaceful here so that we can move on with our lives. We just want to resume our studies, our work, and just enjoy our day-to-day life.
- Ilona Lichtenstein
Below is a blog posting from Sigal of the 'Focus on Ashkelon' blog, who has kindly granted us re-use permission. She visited a kindergarten in Ashkelon to see the kids and their Hibuki therapy stuffed animals, which kids in rocket-range areas of Israel are given. During red alerts, the kids are supposed to concentrate on comforting the stuffed animal, rather than on their own fear. (see more about Hibuki in this 'Southern Israel Success Stories' presentation about how federation funding is helping via the Israel Solidarity Drive)
A teacher demonstrating how Hibuki gives you a nice warm hug and can be carried around.
In a nice bit of timing, YNet published an op-ed by Jacob Shrybman, "Rockets Have Not Stopped" on Monday, 5/17. Just two days later, I found myself on the UJC @JewishEvents twitter feed posting an item saying "First kassam to hit home in Sderot since late Feb; several treated for shock. JPost article: http://tinyurl.com/pp8vd2"
Here's an excerpt from the YNet essay, which can be read in full here.
A few days ago I was relaxing in my first-floor apartment in Sderot when there was a loud knock on my door. The government contractor tasked with building private bomb shelters attached to each unit in the building came to check my apartment. All across the city, private bomb shelters are popping up like spring flowers and are being utilized as the Color Red alarms continue to sound.
I belatedly came across the Sderot Media Center's 'creative writing' project, which asked Sderot residents, young and old, to write about their lives. A handful of the entries (essays, poems & stories) are translated into English, as are videos of a few of the entrants.
Here's an excerpt from Tom Adam, an engaging 14-year-old girl, writing about the kassam that hit her home.
I know that this time it fell on my house, but I refuse to believe it. The broken glass, the light that went out suddenly, the acrid smoke, the dust that fills the air and therefore the lungs. I still hear the words my mother spoke at that moment: "This time it was in our home." Those words both kept and lost their usual meanings. I kept trying to believe it had not happened to us, but I knew it had. My mother ran to open a window; my sister simply stood still. We ran out doors to breathe the air.
Stacey Maltin, an American actress/journalist/dancer is temporarily transplanted to Tel Aviv, and is blogging for YNetNews, after being inspired by her Birthright trip. Here's an excerpt from a recent posting she wrote after a trip to Sderot:
Never did I think a place could exist where it was acceptable to have a playground in which every piece of equipment is a brightly painted bomb shelter. Never did I think I would visit a school that is a partial bomb shelter so if you are in class on the other side of campus you are out of luck. Never did I think I would walk down a street where every house had been hit by a rocket, and yet people continue to live there.
In New York every Saturday there is a protest in Union Square where people shout for Nazi Israel to stop its bullying. I would like to think that if this group of uneducated people were to come visit Sderot they would start to ask themselves who the real bully is.
The guest posting below was kindly provide to us by IDF soldier Yoav B.; we urge you to take a look at his compelling new blog, "Israeli Soldier's Life & Thoughts."
My name is Yoav and I am a soldier in the IDF, currently posted in Judea and Samaria.
Just over a month ago, my company commemorated Tel Hai Day with an impressive ceremony. Every Israeli has been to Tel Hai at least once in his life (and most of us more than once), especially when you live in the Galilee, like me. The story is short, brutal and plain: Eight men gave their lives in the name of Zionism. They gave their lives because they wouldn’t bow to the Arab terrorists. They gave their lives so the future state of Israel would be slightly bigger, and I will be able, about 80 years later, to go to school on the Galilee panhandle.
Hearing the story of those eight men with IDF uniforms on makes you truly understand why the IDF exists: Because this land, the promised land, where so much of our blood was shed, is ours, and no one will make us leave it.
Sderot and all those cities, towns and kibbutzes around Gaza strip are the new frontier. They are all Tel Hai’s. Each and every citizen there wakes up every morning and says to himself, to his people and to the people of the world: We will not be exiled from our homes. Just like those men in Tel Hai almost a century ago, they put their lives on the line every day, because they won’t let go.
This is what inspires us, IDF’s soldiers. This is what motivates us. This is the reason we wear our uniforms proudly and do what we can to defend this country and its people day after day.
To all those people living with fear of rockets in their hearts: We salute you! We will be privileged to help defending you all, and with God’s help, allow you to look at the skies looking for clouds and not rockets.
And to all those people abroad contributing money to those in harm’s way: Just before Tel Hai’s people fell in battle, the Jewish leadership in Israel decided not to send reinforcements to aid the settlement, and only a few volunteers arrived. The Israeli Government is failing to provide Sderot and its area with the reinforcements they need so much.
You are the new volunteers.
Author: "Israeli Soldier's Life & Thoughts" blog
'SDEROT: Rock in the Red Zone' is a documentary about the startlingly vibrant music scene in Sderot. The film's not released yet, but you can see the trailer on YouTube, and it looks powerful. Click on the video image below to take a look.
And if you want to read more about one of the creative forces behind this project, click here to read a posting from Laura Bialis, the American director/producer of the documentary. Bialis has spent the last year or so in Sderot on this project, and (mazel tov!) has gotten married to Avi, one of the subject of the film.
An interesting intersection of two different kinds of protection for the people of Sderot...
In recent weeks, a cavernous $5 million steel-reinforced indoor playground funded by the Jewish National Fund has opened, giving local kids a chance to enjoy climbing walls, air hockey and sports fields without the risk of kassams. (read more)
And on a more military note, Israel has announced a successful test of its 'Iron Dome' missile shield (read more), which is a system built to intercept rockets before they strike their targets. All well and good, but since the government isn't planning to get it out into the field until 2010, and has yet to shoot a rocket out of the air in its tests, it's a good thing the JNF playground is up and running.