Dispatches from the PR battle: Watching the War From the Front Row

Jacob Dallal, Director of Public Relations for the Jewish Agency in North America (JAFI is a UJC/Federation partner agency), was recently called up to do reserve duty in the IDF Spokesperson's Unit, where he served for 5 years and hold the rank of Major. Jacob is reporting on the IDF's PR war for this blog.

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January 20, 2009

The last time I was in Sderot before the ceasefire was Thursday. The combat in Gaza was heavy but the feeling, notwithstanding, was that things would soon wind down. I was at the official overlook towards Gaza -- a mound of earth about 20 feet high at the northeast edge of the city. You climb up and look back and you see the entire city of Sderot. The adjacent neighborhood of single-family homes is the nicest in the city. Execpt that, over the last 7 years almost every home was damaged by a kassam rocket.

Get to the top of the mound and in front of you lies Gaza. The panoramic view is marred by 2 huge plumes of black smoke, one is from the UN headquarters which was on fire. Responding to fire from near the UNRWA headquarters, the army fired a tank shell, which ignited a large fire at a warehouse storing humanitarian aid.

A variety of drones can be seen overhead. There are also 2 helicopters, flying at very high altitude (they could be shot down if they hover low).

But what is truly remarkable about the scene is about a half dozen residents who came to watch the war live. Three are seated on folding deck chairs, one has a pair of binoculars. If you live in Sderot you have the best seats in town to watch the war in Gaza -- not on TV, but in person.

Then one of the Sderot onlookers cried, "they've just launched a Katyusha."
And indeed a trail of white smoke is readily visible, fired from what seems to be just south of Gaza City.

It's headed to Beersheva, another notes. (If it were headed anywhere near Sderot it would have flown right over our heads.) About three minutes later one of the reservists I'm with gets a report on his beeper: a Katyusha just landed in Beersheva, 2 people are seriously wounded.

One of them is a boy, who is still, 5 days later, in critical condition with burns and a serious head injury.

Shalom,

Jacob Dallal