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A Story About Sderot

Sep 28, 2016
By: Joy Koonin, Texas A&M, Hasbara Fellow

 

This summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Israel with Hasbara Fellowships. As much as I loved the sights, food, and people, as well as the advocacy training, one part of the trip that truly stood out to me was when we visited Sderot. Sderot is a small civilian town right next to the border of Gaza, and in turn, is the frequent target of rocket attacks. Hamas, the terror organization in control of the Gaza strip, regularly fires rockets (many of which are made from humanitarian aid supplies) into Israel. Although I knew this fact, it never fully sunk in until I saw some of the rockets, their inner shrapnel and nails that could be found scattered in the dirt across the town, and how the locals of Sderot had adapted their way of life to the continuous attacks.

When the rocket sirens go off, people have only 15 seconds to find a bomb shelter. Children’s kindergartens are fortified against incoming fire, and the only outside playgrounds also serve as bomb shelters. While painted in bright colors in the likeness of caterpillars and castles, the playgrounds’ purpose still presents a stark reality, particularly for the children of Sderot. When rockets hit their schools, they are taught to sing together to drown out the sound of the explosions. Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking stories I was told while visiting the town concerned a local child being interviewed by a reporter. When asked if he wanted to move anywhere else in the world, he emphatically responded that he did not. When asked why, he explained that those places were unsafe to live in as they had no bomb shelters.

Sderot is important to me because it displayed the humanity of a situation that is often either overlooked or surrounded by technical terms. When Hamas fires rockets into Israel, it is no longer merely a sad statistic for me- it has become something personal. No child should have to play in a caterpillar bomb shelter, and no citizen should have to fear shrapnel-filled rockets. Yet, amidst the attacks, Israelis are strong, innovative, and resilient, building and adapting their lives to rise above a difficult reality. My visit to Sderot inspired me to become a stronger advocate for Israel by sharing the truth of what is genuinely occurring in the region, and Hasbara gave me the tools to do so.    

 
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