I, as a Canadian teenager, anticipate my next exam with stress and unease, waiting for the strike to hit. They anticipate the rockets, the next strike of an endless stream. Will it be one, two or ten today? How about tomorrow? Sometimes the quiet is deadlier than a war. More tolling and unsure. The reality is incomprehensible for many. Yet, here it exists.
For 14 years to date, Sderot, a small city located in southern Israel, has been under rocket attack. Men, women and children of all ages, continue to suffer mentally, physically and emotionally. Only a single Kilometre (0.62 miles) of distance separating a playground in Sderot and a terrorist in Gaza leaves the residents of this Israeli town with an abnormal normality- a life in constant fear.
Imagine a bomb shelter crafted in the shape of a caterpillar so that the young children playing tag in the playground will feel at home. Imagine an old man coming home one day to find that the house he has resided in for 60 years has been completely destroyed. Imagine a blasting siren, announcing the arrival of a rocket in 15 seconds yet all a young mother can contemplate is which child in the backseat of her car to save before she runs for shelter. Imagine a 15 second reality. I can imagine because I’ve seen it. Terrifyingly, it exists. It’s here.
Recently I have started volunteering at the Sderot Media Center, whose goal is to advocate and educate. The world needs to learn about the situation in Sderot and the entire western Negev of Israel. All must see and hear about it because these are our brothers and sisters in danger. We must fight for them or else, who will fight for us?
Attending a Jewish Zionist school growing up, I was educated on the Sderot reality but experiencing it first-hand today, having the opportunity to tour the city, witness the devastation and hear the pain in the voices of innocent citizens, is a completely separate story. It was shocking to realize that post- traumatic stress in Sderot does not exist. The trauma is unfolding at this very moment.
Private bomb shelters attached to every apartment, on each floor of a building are not a luxury. Fragments of shrapnel decorating the walls of a kindergarden are not art. Thousands of metal remnants, each dated and painted according to the sender are not toys. This is not a story of the past but an everyday reality of the present. One that we cannot merely stand by and watch.