Three ways to feel about Sderot

As part of its ongoing efforts to boost awareness of the crisis facing the people of Sderot and other towns on the Gaza perimeter, UJC and its partners JAFI and JDC recently brought editors from American Jewish newspapers to the region, where the journalists stayed with local families, took shelter during kassam strikes, and examined the programs that funding from North American Jewry sustains.

We'll post links to the coverage here so you can see what perspectives these journalists brought home with them.

Today's serving is from Rob Eshman of the L.A. Jewish Journal.

In this column, In Sderot, Rob highlights the bubbling anger the people of Sderot and neighboring towns have for their government and what they see as an apathetic Israeli public.
United Jewish Communities (UJC), which funds programs to help alleviate some of the problems residents face in Sderot, offered to fly me over with a bunch of other journalists to take a look. I swallowed and said sure. I told my family I would wear my tennis shoes and sprint for the bomb shelter, no matter whom I had to push aside to get there first. I was kind of joking, of course. But I did pack my Lipitor.

Those who stay in Sderot feel one of three ways, or sometimes all three: They are proud of their decision, they feel bitter about being stuck or they feel abandoned by fellow Israelis and other Jews around the world.

What they don't feel, not for a second, is safe.

"We want peace," Stav Amar, 12, a sixth-grader at Sderot Elementary School, told me. "We want peace, and the rockets won't stop. They just send more and more."

Four and a half months ago, a Qassam crashed into Stav's home. He heard a noise, then he didn't hear a thing for seven hours -- he'd gone deaf temporarily. He was explaining in Hebrew what was so scary about the Qassams when he used a word I didn't know. By way of definition, his friend reached into his pocket and pulled out every boy's favorite plaything -- a bright blue marble. The crudely made Qassam payloads are packed with marbles like these, which tear through flesh on impact.

"There isn't a person who isn't scared of Qassams," Stav said. "But I want to stay. It's my home."

Rob touches on Sderot in a second, more wide-ranging column, Hi-Lo , about his revised understanding of Israel's security situation.

We toured Sderot behind a tour bus of police chiefs from Georgia. Sderot, which has suffered some 7,000 rocket attacks since 2001, has become a kind of twisted attraction for outside security officials and pro-Israel tourists. ("Sderot is the new Yad Vashem," The New York Times' Ethan Bronner told me.) During the three days I spent there -- with the Israel Project and then with a United Jewish Communities trip -- no rockets fell on the city.

"Maybe we should arrange for some explosions," an Israeli diplomat joked with me later. "So visitors aren't disappointed."

I was actually fine with it.

And on a lighter note, while Rob was in Israel he also attended the mosh that is the Birthright Israel Mega Event, and wrote an article praising Birthright and its formula of Excellent + Relevant + Free = Huge Success. He proposes extending this formula to other continuity concepts: Schoolright, Campright, Prayright and perhaps even Dateright.

And finally, in a follow-up column about Birthright, Rob manages to have grunion, diaspora and flirting among his topic tags, which is about as unlikely a trifecta as you'll see anytime soon.