Alon Davidi
Alon DavidiYossi Aloni/Flash90

Alon Davidi, the mayor of the southern Israeli city of Sderot, wrote a special essay on the continuation of the war to The New York Times.

“Until the morning of Oct. 7, the town of Sderot in southern Israel was a parable of hope and success. Less than a mile from the Gaza border, it emerged a few years after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war as a haven for Jewish refugees fleeing antisemitic persecution — from North Africa, Kurdish lands, Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union,” he began.

He described the situation in the city since the 2005 Disengagement: “Rocket attacks from Gaza-based terrorist groups became the new normal. Air raid sirens and rushed trips to bomb shelters invaded our days and nights.”

Davidi added that Gaza has suffered under Hamas as well. “Our experience was also part of a larger narrative of suffering on both sides of the border, all at the hands of the brutal Hamas terror group. Along with Sderot and the surrounding region, Gaza’s more than two million residents have been subject since 2007 to the authoritarian rule of Hamas. Their overlords, some of whom took up residence in Qatar and elsewhere, didn’t seem to care much when their hostility toward Israel resulted in wars and economic hardship for their own people.”

Davidi also noted that Sderot not only flourished itself, but also made significant efforts to assist the people of Gaza, offering a variety of opportunities for development and employment, but everything changed when Hamas attacked.

“Hamas launched an unprecedented assault against the population of Israel, killing about 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals in a brutal rampage that included taking about 240 hostages back to Gaza and systematic sexual assaults. My administration and I were faced with the gut-wrenching decision to evacuate our city and its 36,000 inhabitants. In just a few days, we relocated men, women and children to shelters all over Israel. Some 6,000 residents remain amid an excruciating silence, punctured by still-recurring alerts for Hamas rockets overhead.”

Davidi further detailed the many hardships faced by the residents of Sderot on all levels, as individuals, families, and communities, and his own challenges in continuing his functions as Mayor while evacuated.

He also praised the attempts by residents to return to routine, and the national solidarity that has brought them significant offers of volunteer aid from all quarters.

“What sustains us through these difficult times is the hope that Oct. 7 was a turning point, igniting global awareness of the need to end the Hamas nightmare. It is undeniable that this war has brought a heavy cost to both sides,” he explained.

Regarding the war itself, he commented, “We trust the Israel Defense Forces’ commitment to minimizing civilian casualties and safeguarding our soldiers and hostages, but even the most ethical and advanced military cannot avoid tragic outcomes when facing an enemy that uses its own people as human shields. Equally important is our commitment to rescue the hostages languishing in captivity in Gaza — 136, although two-dozen are presumed dead.”

He called on the world to commit to preventing such events from recurring, and to rebuilding on both sides: “As we move forward, I urge the world to recognize our agony and resolve to ensure it is never repeated. Let us uphold the dreams of the refugees who built Sderot, to build better lives for themselves and for their children. We hope for the same for Gazans, who must also recognize that the people of Sderot will not bow to adversity.”