Sderot is a town less than a mile away from the Gaza Strip. There have been 13,000 Quassam rockets launched into Sderot from Gaza in the past 11 years. From February 19 to 27, I was in Israel with a media and Israel advocacy group called Write On For Israel.
This program is run through the Avi Chai Foundation and has expanded into our community this year. Write On For Israel is a two-year commitment designed for high school juniors.
Our trip to Israel focused on how to defend Israel on a college campus and how to advocate Israel’s moral army. We met with the official spokesmen for Israel’s prime minister, members of the foreign ministry, mayors of cities, authors, and more. Plus, we went to several borders: Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, and Gaza. The Golan Heights and Jerusalem were our main focuses, but we visited other cities as well, including Sderot.
A majority of the rockets launched into Sderot come from a Gaza town, Beit Chanun, that I could see as we stood on a high hill in Sderot.
Rockets are still being launched into Sderot today. In fact, two hours after my group toured Sderot, two Quassam rockets hit the town.
When a rocket is launched, a loud siren spreads throughout the city. Civilians have 15 seconds to run to the nearest bomb shelter. They have 15 seconds to run for their lives: they don’t know if the rocket is going to hit a mile away from them, or thirty feet away from them.
Split-second, life-threatening decisions are made constantly for the civilians of Sderot. Ninety four percent of children living in Sderot suffer from post dramatic stress disorder; tranquilizers are part of their daily diets.
Due to the extreme number of rockets being launched, the city is virtually a large bomb shelter. On our sunny day walking in Sderot, my group and I noticed that not many civilians were walking the streets, even though it was a perfect weather day.
Another surprising fact was the bus stops being bomb shelters. Ours was small, dark, and it smelled. Imagine hiding in this bomb shelter for hours, waiting for a bomb.
This anticipation is what the people of Sderot constantly deal with.
Shockingly, bomb shelters were incorporated into a children’s playground. A large, cement, snakelike tunnel was, in reality, a bomb shelter. To think that innocent children playing on sunny Sunday afternoons are targets of Quassam rockets is a disgusting and infuriating reality.
One of the main topics we discussed while in Sderot was why isn’t Sderot constantly in the Israeli media?
And why hasn’t the world taken notice of this awful occurrence?
A question repeatedly asked throughout our whole trip was, “If Canada was sending rockets into the United States, how long do you think the U.S. would wait to take action?”
Israel waited eight years to take action, Operation Cast Lead. The IDF took the extreme measures of protecting Gaza citizens by sending leaflets, texts, phone calls, and more.
It is ironic that the IDF, who take extreme cautions to not harm civilians, are being attacked by Quassam rockets that specifically target our civilian population.
Because there aren’t many casualties (because there are bomb shelters on every corner), the media has not given Sderot the global sympathy and defense it deserves.
Before my trip to Israel with Write On For Israel, I knew very little about Sderot and Quassam rockets.
Now, I become upset every time I think about the injustices thrown Israel’s way.
This knowledge about the unbalanced bias directed at Israel has widened my eyes to a new world. A world of complications upon complications.
I plan to passionately defend Israel with my newfound knowledge and experience, thanks to my extraordinary experience to Israel with my Write On For Israel group.
Knowledge is power and I now feel that I have the power to inform those uninformed of Israel’s dilemmas, and truly make a change.
Gabrielle Beacken, 16, attends Randolph High School and is a member of Nu’s teen board. The facts for her article were provided by Noam Bedein, director of the Sderot Media Center.