Day 4: The 15-Second Apocalypse.

by Alexandra Rutkowski

A bomb hit last night at 11 PM.

Don’t worry, I’m obviously safe and sound, but there is an entire town of adults, women, and children who will never be either.

Do you hear about this on the news? No. Because it’s not news anymore. It’s life. This is what life is like in Sderot. Walking the streets of this small town took my breath away. This is a city where there are bomb shelters every few hundred feet. Every bus stop is fortified as a bomb shelter. This is a place where the playgrounds (which are also bomb shelters) are quiet graveyards. Where schools are fortified with their classrooms underground. Where 95% of the children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and are so severe medication, the pets are treated as well, and every resident has free access to psychological treatment and medication. Because it’s commonplace to them! This is their everyday.

            Sderot is the closest town to the Gaza Strip, where rockets are fired every day into Israel. More than 12,000 have been fired since 2001, an average of 3 or 4 hitting each day. Some days, specifically on religious holidays, one resident said 30 or 40 might be fired at them. The majority of these bombs/rockets land in Sderot, killing innocent men, women, and children.

The moment we entered Sderot, we were moved to a small room where we were briefed on the safety procedure if a bomb was directed at us today. Alarms blaring, a voice on loudspeakers will say “Seva Adome!” (pardon the phonetic spelling.), which means “Color Red.”  From that time, you have 15 seconds to drop everything, run as fast as you can, and reach a bomb shelter. If you don’t reach one in time, all you can do is sit against a wall, fold your arms above your head, and pray you survive. When children are in shelters are count to fifteen, they begin singing to cover up the noise of the explosions and screams.

I was holding back tears.

 This is commonplace. This is daily life.

The psychological effects of this are unbelievable. I already mentioned how 95% of the small children are diagnosed and treated for PSTD. People’s reaction to the color red in general is terror. Even in the supermarket, if someone comes on the loudspeaker to announce a clean up on an isle, people are affected- filled with fear and ready to run for their lives at the sound of a voice over a loudspeaker. This is life. People don’t wear seatbelts here, because it’s too dangerous to use them. You need to be ready to run. The young man who guided us around (an Israeli with a British accent of all things!) talked about times when people were running in panic and he saw women at risk of being left behind trying to remove children from car seats.

A five-year-old student was asked by his teacher why a snail has a shell. “That’s easy,” the child responded, “it’s his protection from the rockets.” The mindset of these children is unbelievable.

Where do the terrorists get the materials to make the bombs? From the AID that goes into Gaza. Israel constantly sends in aid (three million tons of food and medicine, televisions, refrigerators, thousands of BMWs, iPods, and virtually everything they need to live comfortably. Does this sound like humanitarian aid?), and the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip use those items (lampposts, flagpoles, pipes, etc.) to put together bombs, which they will shoot at Israel. But do you hear about this? No. The media focuses on the cruel treatment of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. I’m sorry to be blunt, but what lies. I saw with my own eyes the Gaza Strip. Yes, some areas struggle with poverty- but that’s not Israel’s fault. The rest looked like an oasis, like a resort! Cities looking like New York, but much nicer. Skyscrapers. An economy that’s rising around 8% a year. People driving BMW’s. You don’t hear about this. There’s a power plant outside of the Gaza that powers it. Many of the rockets are aimed directly at it so that their power will be cut and the world can see how Israel “is mistreating them and cutting their power.” There was a photo published of the officials in Gaza, meeting by candlelight, showing how Israel “cruelly cut their power.” You don’t see the part where the shutters are down and it’s actually daylight outside. The entire media is completely against Israel.

            Alright, I’m going to finish my rant about the injustice of it all. It just upset me. It upset me and broke my heart to see the children of this town, scarred, broken, but continuing with their lives.

Fifteen seconds.

            We’re safe. G-d’s special protection was upon us. But every day, just like last night, there is terror is Sderot. And I don’t think it’s possible to understand it unless you’re them, and unless you’re there. Thank you for your prayers. They work.

Shalom.

Alexandra.

PS. I was stuck in the elevator with a gay Russian man. Very awkward.

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