Sderot on Alert Once Again


by Zalman Nelson - Sderot Israel

May 20, 2009

(lubavitch.com) After two months of relief from the constant barrage of Hamas launched rockets, Sderot’s silence was shattered. Israel’s south went back on high alert late Tuesday afternoon when a Kassam rocket landed in a residential neighborhood, lightly injuring a resident and sending people into shock.

Although the rocket miraculously landed in one family’s backyard, the shrapnel caused heavy damage to the home and caused a light hand wound. A second rocket exploded nearby, causing no physical damage.

Chabad of Sderot’s Rabbi Zev Pizem was running after school programs at his center with 50 children when the sirens went off. The kids and staff ran down to the first floor which was converted to a bomb shelter after the recent Gaza War.

Pizem, who was on the scene counseling the family minutes after the attack, said he is he knows the family as they often participate in Chabad activities. “We spoke about how miraculous it was that the rocket fell in their yard while the whole family was inside. A direct hit could have been devastating,” he told Lubavitch.com.

The names of families whose homes are hit, as well as other identifying information, are typically withheld to prevent Gaza terrorists from using the information to improve their weapons aiming.

Pizem said he could hear the Israeli army’s response, striking tunnels used for smuggling weapons, later that night. But Sderot was already back on edge, the damage was done.

“We had become used to the silence these last two months, so the explosions were really shocking, especially to the kids,” Pizem said. “It was nearby and very loud.”

Last week there were hints that Hamas would resume their rocket attacks. Rabbi Pizem received city permission for a 15 minutes Lag BaOmer children’s parade, pleading with officials that two months of silence was enough to grant the brief celebration.

“Two days later I was called to come to the police station immediately to be told that the parade was off because of reports that rocket attacks might start up again soon,” said Pizem. “I begged them to allow at least something small. The community looks forward to it, the kids get excited about it. For them to be outside, as a group, celebrating is, unfortunately, rare here.”

Pizem got permission to celebrate outdoors for all of 15 minutes, as children, parents and residents enjoyed the parade on a closed off street in the city’s center. Just one week later, the rockets returned.

“People were just starting to feel secure again.”

According to Pizem, a newly constructed and reinforced 1700 meter gym and recreation center for youth of all ages is struggling to stay open. Built with donations from the Jewish National Fund and other agencies and organization, the facility depends on membership from Sderot and surrounding villages and towns.

“While there was quiet, there was a chance to encourage people to come to the city and for residents to venture beyond the proximity of the nearest bomb shelter. Now, forget it.”

Today, a day later, Sderot is busy as usual with the sound of construction everywhere. Since the Gaza War, the Israeli government has been subsidizing the construction of private bomb shelters and trucking in premade shelters on streets around the city.

“There is definitely a ‘here we go again’ feeling around town. And the sight of bomb shelters going up all over certainly doesn’t help to calm the fears."

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