Bombed children of Sderot - confident soldiers of today

Sderot merits a special kind of protection - their own children, now grown up and serving in their hometowns as soldiers of the IDF.

Contact Editor
Uzi Baruch,

Protecting his home. Yaakov Azrayev
Protecting his home. Yaakov Azrayev
IDF spokeperson

The rocket which struck between two homes in Sderot last week was a harsh reminder to the battered residents that they still live under the Gazan threat.

Despite the danger, residents can take comfort in at least one thing: Their children are watching over them.

One such home-bred defender is Sergeant Yaakov Azrayev, 20, who serves in the Rotem Company of the Givati Brigade. These days, his company is stationed near the Erez Crossing, which which enters northern Gaza.

"For 20 years already, I have lived in Sderot, and I always dreamed of serving in the Givati Brigade. More than that, I dreamed of protecting my home, and serving in the area around Gaza. During Operation Protective Edge, I was serving as a soldier in advanced training. We arrived to back up the Givati Brigade forces...that's when I realized how important my service is," explained Azrayev.

According to him, "Today, two years later, I am protecting the city of Sderot - my home, the city I was raised in, and where my family and my friends live, and [I protect] the towns surrounding Gaza together with the Rotem Company. I am proud to say that I merit protecting my own home."

Sergeant Daniel Umemi, 20, also of Sderot, is serving in the 9th Battalion of the 401 Armored Division. Thse days, he is posted in the northern Gaza Division. "Always and forever, I wanted to be a combat soldier. Growing up in Sderot, and experiencing the rockets falling right next to my house, only strengthened my motivation to draft and serve as a combat soldier in the IDF. As a fighter of the 9th Battalion, I feel daily the importance of protecting the Gaza surroundings, and protecting my home and my family."

Sergeant Ilan Somhayev, 19, is a squad leader in the Tzabar Company of the Givati Brigade. Somhayev has been stationed near Gaza for the past three months. "I lived in Sderot since the day I was born. I wanted to serve in the Tzabar Company...due to my family history. Throughout my childhood, I saw the soldiers with their purple berets, who protected my home. As soon as I got to the area - I understood the incredible relevance of my job as a combat soldier," he retells.

Corporal Sophie Keren, 20, also of Sderot, drafted on March 15 to train as a maritime surveillance controller. She now serves in the Ashdod control post. Her job includes keeping maintaining surveillance on the Gaza border.

Sophie tells how she very much wanted to draft into this position, and protect her home. "I am proud of the opportunity I have to protect my home, as part of my job and service in the IDF. The responsibility I bear as a maritime controller is massive, and the protection and defense of my home and the residents of the area surrounding Gaza is daily."