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Mar 5, 2008

Adventures in Eretz Yisrael: Sderot: seeing the damage

Today we had an amazing trip to Sderot.

Somebody in the office is making a Bar Mitzvah for his son. They decided that it was inappropriate for them to be spending a lot of money throwing various parties over the weekend, while in Sderot and the area they are suffering terribly. A plan was devised where they would give a present of 4 pairs of tefillin to children of needy families in Sderot who are approaching their Bar Mitzvahs. It was arranged through Avichai of the organization called Afikim BaNegev. He bought the tefillin from a scribe who was one of the evacuees of the disengagement of Gush Katif and now lives in Nitzanim (a community near Sderot and Ashkelon).
So about 8 of us, plus the Bar Mitzvah boy, went down to Sderot this morning. We went to the school, we met with the principal, we met with the four boys, we talked. The Bar Mitzvah boy gave each one his own beautiful pair of tefillin (each in its own bag with the boys name embroidered on it). The boys gave a present of a book to him. We talked some more... It was a beautiful "ceremony" and a wonderful idea to make the Bar Mitzvah more meaningful and not just spending thousands of dollars on parties.After that, Avichai (from Afikim) took us around Sderot a bit.

When you read abut fortifying Sderot, you really have no idea what that means. I thought it meant reinforcing some walls and ceilings of buildings. Not much reinforcing of buildings has been done, but some school buildings have already been reinforced, by what Israel calls "Kipat HaBarzel" - a metal dome or skullcap. Here is what it looks like.. notice the cover on top of the building.. that is nothing like what I had expected...

Let me tell you the story of a Kassam that fell yesterday morning in Sderot. This story was reported in all the newspapers.

This older couple has lived in Sderot for 30 years. They have only rarely left Sderot. In the past 8 years, since the Kassams have been falling on Sderot they have never, that's right - never, stepped outside of Sderot. never to take a break, never to go shopping in stores outside of Sderot, never never never. They would not leave Sderot while it was under attack.They have some children living in Sderot, but they also have a child living in Givatayim (near Tel Aviv). The child in Givatayim has been begging them to come for a visit and to take a break from the trauma of Sderot. they have always refused. Two days ago they finally agreed to go to Givatayim for a short visit of a few days.

The next morning (yesterday) at about 6 am, a Kassam rocket hit the courtyard of their home. Today we went to visit this home to see what happened. They would have been killed had they been there. It destroyed their home, it knocked down a secured wall that was in front of the house. It blew out all the windows in the house and we saw shards of glass embedded deeply in the walls of the bedrooms. Shrapnel was embedded in walls, the refrigerator and everywhere you looked. We spoke with their daughter who showed us around the destruction.From there, we drove around a bit and saw some houses that had their roofs destroyed from kassams. We did not go in, but based on the destruction to the roofs of these buildings, I can only imagine what it must have looked like inside the houses.

We then went to a house that had been hit by a Kassam rocket 3 weeks ago. They told us the story - the couple had their ten grandchildren over. They had all just left, the grandfather had also just left to daven mincha. The Kassam hit the house. The grandmother was there and was injured. It hit the house and came through the ceiling right above where she was sitting in an easy chair. She was lucky the explosion had happened on the roof above the house, because otherwise she would have been killed and not just injured.We went in and the house was totally destroyed. The ceilings were falling down in various places and a large part of the roof had been blown apart. They told us not to touch anything because the ceiling was being held up in such a precarious way, touching anything might cause things to shift and collapse on top of us.

We then went to the charity organization and saw their complex and what they do. They recently had a Kassam fall int he middle of their courtyard. That put half their activities out of business and they are still working to get reorganized from that. For example, their clothing gmach where they sell clothes for a few token shekels to needy families is right now out of order. They showed us holes in the walls from the shrapnel of the Kassam - it went right through 4 (four!!!) walls (made of geves/sheetrock) exiting the building on the other side.

This organization distributes 500+ foodbaskets every week for Shabbos to needy families. They had a team of Sherut Leumi girls and volunteers helping pack of bundles of food. We helped for a bit make bags of potatoes.

After that, we went into the city and looked around a bit, did some small shopping in different stores around town, and then headed out to work...

Here is a picture of a car that was driving in front of us. As you can see, his back window was hit with shrapnel from a Kassam.Maybe you read in the news today that Israel has delivered 120 more fortified bus stops to Sderot. I suspect they are planning to go into Gaza again the near future and expect a barrage of Kassams in response, and are planning in advance for that... Anyway, here is one being delivered.And here is what it looks like in place.

The idea is that it is a small fortified room and if a siren should go off, anybody standing at the bus stop has a secure place right next to them.
And here is a wall riddled with shrapnel...


  1. First of all, what a beautiful Bar Mitzvah idea.

    Second, thank you for this look at what the inhabitants of Sderot live with every day. To many of us, when we read about "crude kassam rockets falling harmlessly"(as my newspaper always says), we have no understanding of how people's lives are actually affected.

    Very sobering.

  2. Amazing stories and photos! Thank you so much for sharing this experience.

  3. great idea. we printed these pics for Rivka to take to school and discuss during her current events time in class. also, they are raising money for sderot and she is using it to show the changes and needs they have in sderot. so shkoyach again to you.

  4. if she needs mor epics, let me know. I have plenty more... some showing different aspects, and more, of the destruction...

    Also, if you are raising money and already have a contact in Sderot where to give it, that is fine. But if you are looking for somewhere to give it, let me know. You can give it to me and I will transfer it to Afikim BaNegev. They really are doing great work. the guy running it, Avichai, is a tzaddik. and they are the main one of the orgs helping people.

  5. Wow. Thank you so much for posting this. It really inspired me. I fowarded it to my email list. Beh I would love to raise my kids with this appreciation. Thank you, and may Hashem bless you for posting this! M


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