How long does it take before the remote feels closer, and how can invisible wounds draw more attention? Both remoteness and invisibility take a lead role in the story of this Israeli city, Sderot, located at a distance of one km from the Gaza strip. It is far enough from the central Israeli metropolis to be forgotten, yet due to recent campaigns, has been coming up in local news more and more frequently. Since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in October 2000, the city has been frequently attacked by Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants using homemade rockets known as “Qassam rockets”. Hundreds of Qassam rockets have been launched from the Gaza Strip since Israel's disengagement from Gaza in September 2005. Half the children in Sderot are clinically traumatized, as a majority of the rockets hit in the mornings, when they are on their way to school.
Sderot is an industrial city with a majority of its 24,000 inhabitants in the low-income range. The general impression in Israel is that Sderot is a little city, tucked far away in the south, even though it is only an hour drive from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. In May 2007, a significant increase in Qassam rockets landing in the city let to the semi-evacuation of thousands of residents.
On a summer morning, the hubbub and bustle of the central market place in Sderot is interrupted by the wailing of sirens and the urgent voice of a woman repeating “Tzeva Adom” (Red Alert) over the public address system. Another Kassam rocket has been launched by Palestinian militants in Gaza and is heading towards the town. Residents of Sderot are only too well aware that the warning gives them a maximum of 15 seconds to take cover. Some shoppers respond instantly, scurrying for the freestanding steel-and-concrete shelters, known as “life shields,” dotted around public places. Others panic, running in one direction then another, spilling fruit and vegetables from their shopping bags.
Sderot is a town of 24,000, a little more than a mile away from the Palestinian city of Beit Hanoun. In the past five years, more than 2,000 rockets have struck homes, schools, offices, factories and a local synagogue. Eight people have been killed (three of them small children) and dozens more wounded. At Sderot's center for the treatment of shock victims, Dr. Adriana Katz talks about the invisible wounds inflicted on the hundreds of patients in her care by the relentless barrages. She says the Palestinian rockets “have largely destroyed the normal fabric of life in the town. Everyone exists in a state of permanent alert, which is physically and psychologically very destructive….We do our best to prevent people lapsing into full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
The most tragic victims of the rockets are Sderot's children, one in three of whom suffers from PTSD, according to a survey published last year. Like their parents, they spend much of their lives “on alert,” dreading the next attack, unable to concentrate at school or enjoy the normal pleasures of childhood at home.
SderotMedia.com is an independent website that claims to bring the human stories of Sderot, behind the headlines. Noam Bedein of the center claims:
“Israel is not doing anything, and it’s very easy not to do anything, because there’s no blood, and when there’s no blood it doesn’t bring the media down here, it’s not a big story — rockets, no harm done, and on to the weather report. There’s no reference to the human crisis over here, to the trauma, to the fear, what people have to go through every single day. This is what we’re dealing with. This is the Israeli government. This is Israel, 2007. . . . The ground is shaking here.”
more from the Sderot Media blog:
An Israeli would think things are back to ‘normal’ in Sderot. Sderot isn’t in the head-lines today. Though this past Monday, August 6, a kassam rocket fell two meters from a kindergarten, no damage was caused and no injuries were reported. Though multiple kassam rockets fall daily, there is not enough ‘blood’ in Sderot for notice to be taken.
Activists have used creative methods to bring this city's struggle out from the periphery and into the daily lives of Israelis. Rothschild Boulevard is a long boulevard in central Tel Aviv. Built in 1910, it crosses the city and holds a variety of cafés, restaurants, kiosks, and different styles of architecture, making it one of the most popular and famous streets in Tel Aviv and in Israel. Even Israel's Declaration of Independence was signed at the Independence Hall, which is situated on the boulevard.
Sderot in Hebrew means boulevard, and for several weeks over the summer an exhibit called Sderot in the Sderot was placed in this central location of Tel Aviv. Qassam rockets which hit Sderot were brought up to be staged in reenacted scenes. Real rockets, real furniture in real scenes from the Sderot bombings. There was something truly powerful about recreating these scenes, specifically as they were placed outside of their regular context – a faroff city in the south. Their location in central Tel Aviv had a powerful impact on Tel-Avivians.
Photos taken by Israeli blogger Ran M.
The folowing text is taken from Sorer's blog:אינני תושב שדרות, אך מצער אותי בכל פעם לקרא
על ההרס והפחד הממלא את ליבותיהם של התושבים גברים נשים וטף עוללים ויונקים קשישים וקשישות.פגיעות בנפש ובגוף וברכוש. בעוד תל אביב עיר ללא הפסקה של בילויים, שדרות הופכת להיות עיר ללא הפסקה של פצצה. ובמקום בילויים, שיכבות של בלאי עוטפת אותם. ובמקום לנשום אוויר צח, נאלצים הם לנשום עשן ואבק. עמוד שידרתם נתרופף ונהרס, ואין מי שיושיט להם עזרה ראויה לשמה. מצער לגלות תופעה לפיה, כאשר קבריניטי המדינה נקלעים למצב בו רגל מכיסאם המרופד מתנודדת,אזי עדים אנו לאותה אובססיה חמה ולוהטת כדי לייצב ת הכיסא. שינתם נגזלת ומנוחתם נתלשת לנוכח התנודות וייעשו ככל שיידרש ובלבד שהכיסא יהיה איתן ויציב. כך הוא באשר לכיסא המרופד.אך כאשר יציבותם הנפשית והקיומית של אחרים מתרסקת ומתקפחת, מסתפקים במילים ובאמירות ובהצהרות שכדרך שנפלטו בהבל פה כך גם הם מתאדים נאפסים ונעלמים באותו הבל.
I do not live in Sderot, but feel strong empathy every time I read about the destruction and fear that fills the hearts of men, women, children and the elderly who live there and the harm caused to their souls, bodies and property. While Tel Aviv is the recreational city that never stops, Sderot is becoming the bombed city that never stops. But instead of recreation, layers of deterioration cover it. Instead of breathing fresh air, its people breath smoke and dust. Their spine is weakening and nobody is offering a helping hand. I am sad to discover that when the state cabinet is in a situation where a leg of their comfortable chairs are staggering their burning hot obsession to stabilize their own situation is obvious. They act immediately because their position is weakened by the chair's rocking movement, ready to do anything for the chair to return to its strong and stable position. However, when other people's mental stability is crushed, they are satisfied with merely vocalizing words and sayings which dissipate as fast as they appear.