The city of Sderot has fallen from the headlines – but rockets continue to fall as well. Though fewer in recent days, the tension from the impacts and from the Color Red alert system has actually thickened.

A group of Arutz-7 readers and listeners traveled from Jerusalem to Sderot Sunday to kick off Arutz-7’s Sderot Emergency Campaign and Telethon.

Click here to pledge to the Sderot Emergency Campaign

Israel National Radio broadcasters (L to R) Malkah Fleisher, Walter Bingham, Tamar Yonah and Yishai Fleisher - Live from Sderot

Israel National Radio's live 6-hour broadcast raising funds for the Sderot Hesder Yeshiva, featuring Yishai and Malkah Fleisher, Tamar Yonah, Walter Bingham, Avi Mechanic, Ze'ev Orenstein and Alex Traiman, as well as interviews with Sderot residents young and old, as well as your phone calls, can be heard by clicking here:

Hour 1, Hour 2, Hour 3, Hour 4, Hour 5, Hour 6


“The reality here is one of Russian Roulette,” says Noam Bedein, a college student in Sderot who started, a web site dedicated to telling Sderot’s story and facilitating visits by journalists, tour groups or individuals that decide they want to stand with Sderot in the face of rockets and abandonment.

Sunday’s tour group was the latter – made up mostly of new immigrants and non-Jewish friends of Israel.

Bedein recalled to the group the most jarring images he had witnessed as a resident of the leading shell-struck town in Israel. (About 1,600 rockets and mortars have hit Sderot, while more than 6,000 hit the Jewish towns in Gush Katif. Now used a launch-sites after being destroyed by PM Ariel Sharon in 2005.)'s Noam Bedein shows the Arutz-7 groups the piles of hundreds of Kassam rockets at the local police station

Kassam rockets labeled with the date and site of impact

A school, one-third of which is protected from rockets

Store front near Kassam impact

Holes in a metal door from the shrapnel of a Kassam rocket that detonated nearby

Residents of a building hit several times by Kassam rockets adorned it with a Hamsa

“I have never seen a more horrifying site than a man, given the seconds of warning provided by the Red Alert system, having to decide which of his two kids to grab when scrambling for cover,” Bedein tells the group. “I also never thought I would see synagogues blown up by explosives in Israel.”

The synagogue referred to is called Ohel Yitzchak, Tent of Isaac. The Dahan family – nine brothers and a sister, all born and raised in Sderot, had just completed a year of mourning for their father, Hananya. They planned for months to dedicate a Torah scroll in his memory, setting the date for May 17 – the day after the mourning ended. Police and the IDF Home Front Command advised against holding the dedication celebration. “We said, ‘What, we are going to let Hamas and Hizbullah win?'” recalls Ziva Dahan. “We did it with faith – on time, even though half of Sderot had fled.”

The 'Ohel Yitzchak' synagogue

The study hall of the synagogue

The roof of the synagogue

The synagogue's shattered sign

Damage from the impact in the hall outside the study hall

Photos of Rabbis Yaakov Abuhatzeira and Mordechai Eliyahu were unharmed despite the blast, which almost led to the building's collapse

Four hundred people attended the dedication. “After the festive meal, the family stayed behind to clean the synagogue,” Yigal Dahan said. “Our mother finished cleaning the study room (Beit Midrash) and locked the door, but we were all still gathered outside in the large courtyard.”

The Red Alert system sounded and the kids tried to get into the study room to take cover. “The door was locked, so everyone continued a little further into the main sanctuary,” Yigal recalls. “My brother and I screamed out Shir HaMaalot Esa Einai el heharim m’ayin yavo ezri (A song of ascent: I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come?)”

Click here to hear a "Color Red" warning announcement, followed 15 ultra-tense seconds later by the shriek of a rocket and the explosion.

The rocket crashed through the roof of the study hall and detonated inside, shattering everything and sending shrapnel flying in all directions. “Anyone who would have been inside would have been killed – it was a true miracle,” agree all the siblings. Members of the family had just gotten back from time away from Sderot and said the support and material donations to the synagogue were a miracle in their own rite. “We have been away since the attack – and we come back as your bus pulls up?,” Ziva says. “Thank G-d for proving to us that the Jewish people care.”

The Torah scroll dedicated in memory of Hananya Dahan, by his children

The Holy Temple, depicted on the silver cover of the Torah scroll

"It was a miracle!" say the Dahans

Newspaper clipping the day after: "Miracle at the synagogue"

The experience heartened the group, whose members had expressed uncertainty at whether they would be able to offer anything in the way of practical or emotional assistance to the residents over the course of a day’s visit.

The visitors then accompanied local students at the Sderot Yeshiva, making their rounds to local residents. The students are taking part in the Hesder program, which combines army service and yeshiva study in a five-year intensive program. Sderot’s yeshiva is unique in that students have been called upon to play a major role in strengthening and assisting the local residents.

Students at the yeshiva

Students at the Sderot yeshiva

As part of the Yeshiva's Hand-in-Hand program, students with cars drive residents to doctors appointments, meetings with social workers and psychologists or the grocery store. They hold gatherings for the elderly and the general public to strengthen them and bring joy, smiles, and encouragement into their lives. Others come and clean up around the house.

Sderot residents have developed a deep feeling of abandonment by their government. They are convinced that no one cares about them. Most residents remaining in Sderot are just happy to hear a knock on the door, followed by the smiling face and listening ears of the yeshiva students.

Visitors embark on visits together with Yad b'Yad (Hand to Hand) volunteers

These students did not end up in Sderot by chance. The city has been under attack for almost seven years now, and the yeshiva always made it clear its place was at the heart of the flourishing development town, where it sought to give emotional strength to the residents, along with Torah classes and services for the largely-traditional immigrant city.

A sign advocating the recitation of Psalms and thanking G-d for Divine protection

Esther Agassi is in her nineties. She has lived in Sderot since she came to Israel from Morocco more than 40 years ago. “Why would I leave?” she says to the visitors as she pours glasses of grape soda she insists everyone drink. “To leave and give them Sderot? No way.” She spends each Sabbath with one of her nine children, only two of whom live in Sderot, “but I always come back here after,” she says.

Agassi lives on one of Sderot’s first blocks, in a row of single-story homes with wood-and-plaster roofs. Though newer homes built since the Gulf War include reinforced safe rooms, there is no place in Agassi’s home safe from the impact of a Kassam rocket. Esther Hazan, a neighbor from across the street, says two of her children’s homes were hit by rockets. “Thank G-d, neither of them was hurt,” she said.

Esther Agassi in her home

“We truly know that things will be good,” says Aliza Sayada, also from Morocco. She smokes cigarettes and says her grandchildren think she is crazy when she absent-mindedly tells them to come inside to be protected from Kassam rockets while visiting them in Haifa. “Don’t get me wrong, these rockets, whether they hit anybody or not, cause trauma for the rest of your life,” she says. “But we are simply grateful to G-d that he has given us health and homes – we can never forget to say ‘thank you.’”

Aliza Sayada in her kitchen, "unprotected by the government, protected by G-d"

Another Sderot family told a visiting group they had one son who lived in Los Angeles. He sent them paid tickets for the family to come to L.A., but they refused.

“I left for two weeks, but now I am back,” Nachmias Koral says, sitting in a plastic swimming pool with one of his 21 grandchildren. “At the end of the day, we are back in the Land of Israel. Koral says he was deeply affected by a recent Shabbat where religious schools from around the country came to Sderot to show their support. “They held a big Kiddush here in the middle of the courtyard and everyone came out of their houses to join in,” Koral says. “The unity was so great, it was like being at Mt. Sinai.”

Arutz-7 and Yad b'Yad (Hand to Hand) volunteers speak with Nachmias Koral

Ezra HaLevi and Nachmias Koral

Arutz-7 and Yad b'Yad volunteers with Sderot-residents 7th-graders Dudi and Lidor who were home alone.

"Psalms counter missiles"

"Do not fear, Israel - For G-d is with us"

A lone stalk of wheat after the harvest, at the edge of Sderot

The Arutz-7 tour looking toward Gaza's Beit Hanoun and the destroyed Jewish towns of Elei Sinai, Dugit and Nisanit

An IDF position on the Gaza border, between Sderot and Beit Hanoun

Sign on Sderot street reads: "Operation Defensive Shield 2 - in Gaza"

Gaza and the former Jewish towns of northern Gaza

Dudi and Lidor, two outspoken 7th graders, were interviewed on Israel National Radio’s live broadcast. They expressed their feelings with no inhibitions: "When one Katyusha fell in the north, the country launched a war to defend the Kibbutzim and cities of the north. But when Kassams and mortar shells have fallen here in Sderot for 6 years, no one does a thing. This is because we are a development town, and no one really cares about us," they said.

The residents seem to agree that although Sderot is in a shambles, both physically and emotionally from both the rockets and the feeling of abandonment, it has been heartening to see neighbors helping one another. “The more we are abandoned by the government, the more we see good people giving of their own time,” says Jackie Abutmat, a maintenance man that does repairs around Sderot together with his son. Much of his recent work has been paid for by the government – entering homes hit by rockets and repairing them.

Jackie Abutmat welcomes visitors into his home

“Those who fire these rockets are trying to break the spirit of Sderot and make it into a ghost town,” says Rabbi David Fendel, the rosh yeshiva. “We are fighting that by making this a center of life and Torah. At the same time, we are bringing students from all over Israel to see this as their hometown. As they go door to door offering their help, they learn that their studies don’t remain only in the books, but translate into actions.”

Many of the students had fought hard against the Disengagement. Not a few were tempted to leave the struggle for Sderot to those who only support Jewish settlement within Israel’s pre-1967 borders (where Sderot squarely sits – though Hamas routinely refers to it as a ‘settlement’ and its residents as ‘settlers’). “We cannot let the tragedy of Gush Katif’s destruction knock us down,” says Fendel. “The circumstances that accompanied that rendered it almost an act of G-d – Sharon was willing to kill – to shed blood in a civil war - to push it through. Of course we also didn’t do enough. But the circumstances are different now, and Sderot is where the change will take place, with G-d’s help, that will lead toward better times.”

Sderot's open-air shuk

The Arutz 7 group purchased goods in the shuk to support the strained local economy.

"Olmert has failed in the north and in the south - the Reservists are with Sderot"

"Heroes of Sderot: We are With You!"

Click here to pledge to the Sderot Emergency Campaign

Proceeds go to the Hand-in-Hand Project contributing daily to improving the lives of the embattled residents and children

Israel National Radio's live 6-hour broadcast raising funds for the Sderot Hesder Yeshiva, featuring Yishai and Malkah Fleisher, Tamar Yonah, Walter Bingham, Avi Mechanic, Ze'ev Orenstein and Alex Traiman, as well as interviews with Sderot residents young and old, as well as your phone calls, can be heard by clicking here:

Hour 1, Hour 2, Hour 3, Hour 4, Hour 5, Hour 6

Arutz-7 Station Manager Baruch Gordon talks to Israel National TV in front of a store hit by a rocket

Israel National Radio's Walter Bingham holds a Kassam rocket

(Photos: Yechiel Stein and Ezra HaLevi)