Welcome to Sderot, a city of refuge, stubbornness and resiliency. After 14 years of bombardment from Hamas rockets, four military operations to try to stop said bombardment, four failed ceasefires, and another four that have failed during Operation Protective Edge, the citizens of the city wonder whether or not a time will come when they can once again live at peace.
Among the city’s many stoic citizens, who have decided to not only stay in the embattled city but also work hard each day to make the city flourish in spite of constant rocket fire, are 20 families of Bnei Menashe who chose to make Sderot their home when they immigrated to Israel.
“We are almost adapting, but who can really adapt to this?”explained a community representative by the name of Enosh, a Hebrew name he was given back in India meaning humanity. “Our community, which is comprised of 20 families and one single individual, has done the best we can under the circumstances to lead a normal life.”
Enosh told Breaking Israel News that the biggest problem facing the community is what to do with the children now that the school year has ended and summer camps have been disrupted by rocket fire.
“The parents in our community, both husbands and wives, usually go to work which leaves the children at home with no organized framework to manage their time and without what to do. The problem is worse in the summer as there is no school, and the children are at home and with the constant sirens, very afraid,” he explained.
Israel Returns is once again coming to the rescue. The organization is raising money to help jump start a new summer program for the children of the community in order to give them something to do, alleviate their stress by holding fun and creative programming for the youth, and allowing the parents peace of mind knowing that their children are looked after.
A source at Israel Returns said that the organization is going out to purchase educational materials and books for the children to keep them occupied both in the camp and during after hours time.
The community does not have a set clubhouse or programming center, so as an interim solution, people are hosting groups of children in their private homes and families are trying hard to create the activities. Israel Returns is coming in to help alleviate the situation.
In terms of security, Sderot is fairly safe in spite of the continual rockets. Israel in the past several years has developed very advanced capabilities for the defense of its citizens. Iron Dome batteries protect central cities in Israel, and the state has invested billions of shekels into fortified bomb shelters in the western Negev, including reinforced supermarkets, bus stops, playgrounds and kindergartens for children.
These actions, together with disseminating the Home Front Command’s emergency information regulations to the Israeli public, has proved helpful in keeping the cost of Israeli civilian casualties very low during this conflict, in spite of Hamas’ attempts to directly target Israeli citizens.
The bigger problem, at least currently, is the stress and trauma factors related to being constantly under attack while having to go about daily life.
“Families particularly are having a hard time coping,” said Enosh, and that is exactly where Israel Returns is trying to help out. “They don’t just help us move and then leave us to find our own fortunes. They stay with us and support us throughout our time here. They become our family.”