In Sderot, terrorism the rule, not the exception

Imagine you live in a small town on the Mexican border. Imagine that every day for the past seven years Mexican desperadoes have been firing crude rockets into your town, indiscriminately hitting schools, medical centers and apartment buildings, with the express objective (which they make clear in the media) of murdering as many American civilians as possible. Years ago, the American army used to make limited forays across the border to try to stop the rockets, but because the desperadoes operate in populated areas, these incursions hurt innocent Mexicans, and international pressure and American public opinion have caused the United States government to decide that it is better to just let you put up with the rockets.

As the years pass, the number of rockets fallen on the city soars over 6,000. Hundreds have been wounded or traumatized. Children have long given up going to school because of the danger of walking outside. Those with enough means have moved away, but like many others in the city your family is poor, and you simply have nowhere to go and no means to get there. Businesses have closed as the proprietors have left town or shut themselves indoors. The city’s infrastructure — police, firefighters, sanitation — is so depleted in its manpower that it cannot perform its functions.

Imagine this, and you will have a good idea of the situation in the southern Israel town of Sderot. Sderot’s population of over 20,000, mostly working-class immigrants, have had to live under the perpetual rocket fire of Palestinian terrorists since 2000. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of the population, those who could afford to leave, has moved out. The majority of the people are left as sitting ducks. The government of Israel cannot defend them militarily without garnering international and domestic condemnation. It cannot provide the financial support needed to sustain a city under siege.

Last year, I spent a day with a group of students volunteering in Sderot. There, volunteers try to reconstruct some of the basic services of which the city is starved. We went house to house through abandoned neighborhoods finding elderly, sick and home-bound peoples, many of whom had been trapped in their houses for days without food and without seeing any other human beings. We went on errands to buy necessities for those too traumatized to leave their homes. We would even baby-sit for single parents who could not leave their children to go to work because what help they formerly had had disappeared. For every stranded, shell-shocked resident we found, we knew there were hundreds more out there, languishing in the darkness of their homes, just waiting for the next explosion — and then the next.

When we went on these expeditions, our supervisors would tell us: “If a rocket is coming, an alarm system will warn you. When you hear the warning, you have 15 seconds to go indoors. If you cannot get indoors, stand to the north of a wall (the rockets come from the south) and hope for the best.” During the day I was in Sderot, three rockets fell. We were warned of only one of them.

We in the United States talk frequently about combating terrorism, but we generally discuss it as hypothetical. Happily, we have rarely had the opportunity to experience terrorism as a brute fact of daily life. It takes effort to remember that not everyone is so privileged, that all over the world people are forced to live in fear, in poverty and in the suffocating trauma of war and siege.

This Thursday, Eli Moyal, the outspoken mayor of Sderot, is coming to speak at Yale. For years, he has had the task of guiding his constituents through the throes of one of the worst nightmares that could ever rain down upon a city. Undoubtedly, the experience that he brings will be food for thought for those of us who live among the serene, Gothic ivory towers and golden foosball tables of Yale University.

As members of a free society committed to bettering quality of life in all corners of the globe, it behooves us to take this time to reflect on the blessings of a normal life, and to try to imagine the alternatives.

Yedidya Schwartz is a freshman in Branford College and a member of the Yale Friends of Israel.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    More Palestinians are killed than Israelis. I wonder who the real terrorists are here.

  • Khalil

    The author asks Americans to imagine what it must be like to live in Sederot. Now, imagine what it's like to be a Palestinian. Five Million Palestinians are not allowed to come into their own country for 60 years, because Israeli governments have kicked them and their ancestors off their land and out of their cities through massacre and rape (read Illan Pappe, Avi Shlaim, and Benny Morris, Tom Segev, Tanya Reinhart). And in violation of Security Council Resolution 194, they have lived 60 years as refugees. One and a half million Palestinians live inside Israel as 4th class citizens, after the classes of European Jewry, Arab Jewry, and African Jewry. Then there are the three and a half million Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel decides whether they can eat, drink, travel, or live.

    That is the Palestinian life.

    And by the way, In Sederot about 10 people have died in the last 5 years of bombardments by kitchen made explosives. In contrast in one week, last month, over one hundred Palestinian civilians were killed. 6 thousand Palestinians have been in the last six years. And when they were peaceful, between the first and second intifada, the Oslo years, the occupation doubled and the number of settlers doubled. That is what they got for peace.

    Imagine that. If you want to understand what Israel has done to Palestinians, again, read Israeli authors: Progressives like Illan Pappe, Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev, Tanya Reinhart, but even the ultra-Zionist Benny Morris.

  • Jose

    *wipes tear from face

    I am extremely saddened to read that after all these centuries the noble white continues to be attacked with spears and scalped at the hands of savages.

    I suggest that a gift of blankets should be in order.

  • Ben

    There is a stark difference between daily rockets designed purely to strike at the heart of a civilian population than military operations taken to counteract these attacks. The loss of Palestinian life is terrible, yet the situation is not so simple. The reason a disproportionate amount of civilians are killed in Gaza is because these rockets are launched from crowded apartment buildings, effectively using their families as human shields. When Israel tries on-the-ground policing so that they don't have to level entire buildings and homes, it's called an occupation and condemned by the international community. Israel rightfully withdrew from Gaza, forcing it to painfully dismantle the homes of many of its own citizens. Yet the attacks did not stop. How much longer must Hamas taunt Israeli civilians? When will they put the good of the Palestinians above their selfish political motives? Until that point comes, Israelis will continue to live in fear and will choose more right-wing governments which won't be nearly as friendly and willing to compromise.

    Before talking about the horrors which befall Palestinian civilians, think about what can practically be done about it. Over the past 8 years, Israel has made significant overtures and indicated a clear willingness to sacrifice for peace. At Camp David, the Palestinians were offered a state with East Jerusalem as a capital, control of the West Bank and Gaza, including the Temple Mount, and billions of dollars. Arafat and his cronies didn't even discuss the offer, left the negotiations, and instigated another intifada. Who is the real obstacle to peace?

  • Anonymous

    Jose,
    The term "white" as we know it typically doesn't apply to Jews. In most European countries and societies, which the term "white" usually refers to, the Jews were an oppressed minority and vigorously persecuted. Until after WWII, even in the U.S., Jews were also victims of systematized societal prejudice. While they weren't treated nearly as bad as African-Americans, Asian-Americans, or Hispanics, Jews were still seen as outsiders, and almost treated as if they did belong to a different race.

    Don't try to make it seem as if the Jews are similar to the European imperialists. To assume so would be to imply that the Jews should go back to where they belong. The problem is that before Israel, the Jews didn't have a homeland or even a place where they "belonged."

  • Jason K

    ALL of you guys are completely missing the point. The purpose of the article was not to make a case for Israel, but rather to give us a sense of what a community of civilians is going through, and perhaps draw attention to the mayer's visit. Regardless of what you may think of the history of Israel or of the policies of its government, these poor civilians still face an unpleasant reality that they have no control over and that exists through no fault of their own. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is exceedingly controversial and complex, and there is nowhere near enough space in a YDN column or its comments to make a strong case one way or the other. While we may guess that the author has Israeli sympathies from the choice of her article and the fact she's in Yale Friends of Israel, we should judge and appreciate her article for what it is and not misinterpret it as a political statement. It's unfortunate someone cannot draw attention to something meaningful to them without others turning it into a political debate.

  • A.C.

    While the above (#5) may be true, Jews are still considered -- and surely still consider themselves -- "whiter" than the Palestinians. If you don't think that has something to do with both their self-believed moral superiority to those who are darker than them and the unwavering support of countries like the United States for Israel, you're being terribly naive.

  • jzed

    Yeah the poor Palestinians with their gender mutilation, homophoia, Nazi Jew hatred. Yeah Yalies keep on believing these guys are your friends. Also there was 400,000 refugees, you my friend are counting all their descendants who have never been in Israel and they are kept as refugees as a cruel political game.No other place or time in history has this ever happen.

  • Jacob Suslovich

    More than 65% of the Jewish population of Isreal is from Middle Eastern countries where they lived for thousands of years and . Some voluntarily moved to Israel. Most were forced out bu the Arabs. (you can read "The Forgotten Millions: The Modern Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands " by Malka Hillel Shulewitz or "Locked Doors: The Seizure of Jewish Property in Arab Countries" by Itamar Levin) They are no more "white" than their Arab neighbors. The differsnce is that Israel made the policy decision to integrate them into the general Israeli society and despite the "white man's prejudice" that their Ashkenazi brethren had carried with them form Europe, this integration has to alarge extent, althoughnot completely been accomplished. The Palestinian's Arab brethren, on the other hand made the deliberate decision to the Palestinian's in misery in order to use them as tool in the propagnada war agains Israel. Some of the comments hee show that this tactic is working. The misery of the Palestinian's in GAza seems to in the eyes of some to justify the deliberate rocketing Od Israeli cities. The truth is that the misery of thePalestinian's was intended to do just that. This fact was stated succinctly by the former head of UNRWA, Ralph Galloway, when he said: "The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the UN, and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders do not give a damn whether Arab refugees live or die." (This fact was stated succinctly by the former head of UNRWA, Ralph Galloway, when he said: "The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the UN, and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders do not give a damn whether Arab refugees live or die."(This fact was stated succinctly by the former head of UNRWA, Ralph Galloway, when he said: "The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the UN, and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders do not give a damn whether Arab refugees live or die." (Maurice Roumani, The Case of the Jews from Arab Countries: A Neglected Issue (New York: WOJAC, 1977))

  • Mahdi

    to Yedidya:
    While I appreciate your concern for the victims of conflicts in the Middle East, I wonder how aware you are of the situation at stake? While I am sympathetic to the inhabitants of Sderot and just like you would like to see them live normal lives, I would like to turn your attention to the 'big entity of terrorists' that is the Gaza Strip. The 1.4 million human beings who live there are living in poverty, unemployment and are not receiving enough electricity or fuel to live normal lives. Israel while apparently 'targeting terrorists' in Gaza has killed over 300 people in a week, way over 700 in the last couple months. Palestinians were being targeted as a form of collective punishment. I did not see you mention anything about the dire humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip which either means that you think Palestinians civilians deserve to live in these conditions or that you are simply not aware of the situation in Gaza, in which case I would suggest logging on to BBC.com and searching the word ‘Gaza.’
    I strongly encourage you to read about the people you consider 'terrorists' and realize that they are humans just like the inhabitants of Sderot.
    As an Arab but most importantly as a human being, I am strongly saddened to hear students here at Yale talk about the victims of Qassams in Sderot without mentioning the inhuman conditions and starvation of an entire population in the Gaza Strip.

  • Linda Rivera

    In Israel, Arabs have full voting rights and are elected to Israel's government.

    Israel continually sends in truck after truck of food, medical and other supplies into Gaza to a hostile population that dance in the streets and celebrate by the THOUSANDS when Jewish innocents are maimed and murdered by Muslim killers.

    Islamics Make WAR Against CIVILIAN Populations
    They break international law!

    They use human shields.
    Hide behind women and children.

    They wage daily, religious war on Israel's infidels - firing a daily barrage of rockets on defenseless, terror-stricken Sderot citizens, and Ashkelon.

    They fire from within densely populated areas in a deliberate and shocking attempt to get PA Muslim civilians killed when IDF fire back in defense.

    When PA civilians are accidently killed by the IDF's defensive measures, Islamics scream to the whole world in protest. But the blood guilt is on the heads of the Muslim terrorists.

    75% of PA Muslims support suicide bombings.

    STOP Inciting Children to MURDER! http://www.teachkidspeace.com/flash.php

    Flash Video-What the Free World needs to know about jihad:
    http://www.terrorismawareness.org/know-about-jihad/

    Palestinian Authority Muslims are taught murdering Jews is the highest goal in life and attains paradise: http://www.pmw.org.il/AFD.html

    Schools, streets, and sports teams are named after suicide bombers.

    Flash Video- ISLAMIC MEIN KAMPF http://www.terrorismawareness.org/islamic-mein-kampf/

  • Anonymous

    The most religious Jews oppose this… I'd believe a religious Jew over a secular state. That's what Israel is, secular, if it truly was religious, it wouldn't be causing so much harm harm. The harm done in the past does NOT justify so much violence against others. Think about it, seriously:

    http://www.jewsagainstzionism.com/zionism/zanda.cfm
    http://www.nkusa.org/
    http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/jews_against_zionism.html

    So think again before you think only Muslims oppose Israel's policies… I applaud these Jews for speaking the truth. No one's going to call an Orthodox Jew anti-Semitic are they? They're doing more for the Jews than Israel is.