If I Forget Thee, O' Sderot

It is almost as if Sderot is not part of Israel.

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Noam Bedein

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Today, the 28th of Iyar - May 16, 2007 on the civil calendar - educational institutions in Israel are celebrating 40 years since the liberation of Jerusalem.

Not in Sderot. There is no school today in Sderot, because a Sderot school was hit by a Gaza missile last night.
What does a five-year-old child ask for in Israel?

It is almost as if Sderot is not part of Israel.

At the Sderot ‘Smadar’ kindergarten, five-year-old children recently had the chance to jot down what dream they have, by putting notes in their little "Kotel" - a small wall that was built in the kindergarten.

What does a five-year-old child ask for in Israel? For a bike, a doll, a game?

In Sderot, the one dream that these five-year-olds have is: "Stop the Color Red siren and stop the missiles from falling."

This is experiencing 20 missiles falling last night in Sderot: running from one place to another; hearing the sirens of the ambulances and police cars; seeing the direct hits on Sderot homes; seeing the critical injuries of a mother and son; seeing people evacuated in a state of shock; living through the commotion, the people huddled together, the cries of the children, the screaming mother looking for her two daughters, the frustration of the people wanting to go and burn tires; and hearing the residents screaming at Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal, who arrived on the scene, "How much longer?"

"There’s anther missile on the way, everyone get close to a wall!" And everyone starts running. Seeing uniformed men, with their rifles, bending down next to the wall, people felt hopeless - like ducks in a shooting range.

A few more seconds and another explosion, running again from the falling rocket, the same routine repeats itself - children again crying, a mother looking for her sons, people fainting.

You would think that there has been enough blood for an Israeli military response. Wrong.

Visiting the city emergency center at 12:30 a.m., I found that Dr. Adrianna Katz, head of Sderot's mental health services, was there alone. Last January, the United Jewish Communities (UJC) in the United States sent out a letter promising $997,000 to add 30 workers to Dr. Katz's staff. However, the UJC allocation never came. So, she is there alone, with more than 3,600 residents of Sderot who suffer from stress, anxiety and trauma as a result of the continuing missile attacks from Gaza.

Dr. Katz treated more than 30 victims of shock that night. But every time the Color Red siren sounded, she needed to leave the emergency center - because it is not protected.

Many of the victims who arrived at the emergency center last night asked if the center was protected. After hearing the negative answer, Dr. Katz related, some collapsed on the spot.

By now, more than 300 missiles have been fired from Gaza towards Sderot and the western Negev since the cease-fire that was declared on the 26th of November, 2006. Yet, the government of Israel insists on maintaining that cease-fire.

To think that Jerusalem is a one-hour ride from Sderot.

Jerusalem was liberated because Israel believed in the idea that "the best defense is a good offense." Indeed, the Six Day War was the only war in Israel's history in which Israel took the initiative and struck the enemy before the enemy struck Israel. With no allies in the world, with such pride and honor, Israel defeated its enemies in 1967.

In the Israel of 2007, though, Israel does not fight to resolve the Russian roulette reality in Sderot and the western Negev.

On Monday afternoon, while accompanying a visiting guest to an observation point where we could look out at all of northern Gaza, the guest watched and filmed a missile fired at Sderot from the roof of a home in the Gaza village of Beit Hanoun. Unmanned Israeli drones overhead filmed the missile as it was fired. That morning, the spokeswoman for the office of the Minister of Defense, Amir Peretz - himself a Sderot resident - assured our news agency that the Israeli army would fire at the source of any and all missile launches in Gaza.

To think that Jerusalem is a one-hour ride from Sderot.

Yet, the IDF did not fire back at the missile launcher on the roof of that home in Beit Hanoun.

Instead, after 20 missiles fell in Sderot last night, the IDF fired at open fields south of Sderot.

Israel worries about Arab civilian casualties. However, even the human rights group B'tselem defines the use of civilian shields as a war crime. So, if an Arab family welcomes a rocket launcher on the roof of its home, perhaps it is time to invite that family to meet Allah as soon as possible. It is a question of their dead civilians or ours.

Where is Israeli pride today? Is it found in Israel's army, police and security officers kneeling and counting the seconds for the rockets to land in Sderot?

"If I forget thee, O' Jerusalem..." Has Sderot been forgotten?


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