Be'er Sheva Faces New Reality

Residents of Be'er Sheva received a rude shock Wednesday when a school was hit by a Gaza missile for the second time in less than 24 hours.

Hana Levi Julian ,

Destroyed classroom in Be'er Sheva
Destroyed classroom in Be'er Sheva
Israel News Photo: (Channel 2)

Residents in the city of Be'er Sheva received a rude awakening 8:00 a.m. Wednesday morning when an elementary school was hit by a Gaza missile – the second school to be struck in less than 24 hours. The night before, the first Grad-type Katyusha rocket had slammed into the courtyard of a kindergarten. Fortunately, the building was empty.

Be'er Sheva classroom hit by Grad missile
Channel 2

This week is the first time the "capital of the south" has ever been hit by any military rocket. Eight people were treated for emotional trauma, but many more suffered milder forms of anxiety and shock. Due to the risk of more attacks, Home Front Command has decided it is best to keep children home from school for the rest of the week.

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The rest of the city tried to move on as people began to adjust to a new reality, one that Sderot residents have lived with for at least eight years. It isn't easy, and it is a change that will take time. The chaos and panic that hit the city was indicative of how protected Be'er Sheva's residents have been.

On the bus traveling from Arad to Be'er Sheva, one fashionably dressed young woman spoke on the phone to a friend. "Enough of the hysteria. I have to call other people. Yes," she added impatiently, "it will be fine. Thank you." Pale, but in control, she dialed the next number resolutely. "No, no, no! I don't want to stay in the store by myself! And he doesn't understand that it is DANGEROUS."

The problem, it seemed, was the she worked at a store near the center of town, and was reluctant to be there when missiles were slamming indiscriminately into buildings without any warning.
We will manage, and the army will sort it out. At least now they are finally doing something about it. Whatever will be will be.

"The 'Color Red' incoming rocket alert system is not working," she said. "I have spoken to three people this morning, and not one of them heard the siren – one of them was only half a block away when the missile hit that school.  What if she had been passing by?!!"  Her voice rose at the thought, before she mentally shook herself.

"Yes, I called my father. He doesn't want me to go in, but what can I do?  I am calling my boss next. He lives in Jerusalem and has no idea of what is going on. He doesn't listen to the radio and has no TV." 

Five minutes later, after enlightening her uninformed boss about the morning's events, the young saleswoman appeared calmer as the bus neared the Shoqet Junction. "Driver, I need to get off and catch a return ride.  Where do I find the stop from here?"  She smiled. "My boss has decided to close the store for the day."

At the Income Tax office in Be'er Sheva, a young clerk sat silently, her eyes and nose reddened, shaking slightly, waiting for her father to come and take her home.

"Yes, I am scared," she admitted, preferring not to give her name. "I heard the 'Boom! Boom! It was terrifying. I have never heard anything like that in my life," she said. Born and raised in Israel, as a "masorati" girl – observant of Jewish traditions – she had never served in the army, having instead taken the option of carrying out National Service. Dealing with explosives, let alone the possibility of facing ordnance aimed at her, was beyond what she could cope with.

Her supervisor, an older woman, asked how she was doing. "It's okay to leave if you want to," she said. "If you feel you need to go, it's fine." She seemed compassionate. Others in the office continued working, politely giving her the space and privacy she needed to deal with her feelings.

Yelena, a cleaning woman in the building who rode down in the elevator, asked if anyone was left on the upper floors. She seemed surprised that people were still working in their offices, but nodded approvingly.

Here was a vigorous woman unmoved by the threat of an attack on her community. An older Russian immigrant, she has faced security issues before, she said.

"Okay, so there are 'nefilot' (bombings) here now too," she said. "In Sderot, where my sister lives, they have dealt with them for years. We will manage, and the army will sort it out. At least now they are finally doing something about it. Whatever will be will be."

The city of Be'er Sheva has opened a center for shock victims, located across from the Soroka Hospital in the Teacher's Center building, 85 Rager Boulevard. The center is similar to that operating for several years in Sderot, and relieves the hospital of the burden of dealing with shock victims.