In Israel, effects of terror shatter glass, peace of mind

Posted March 29, 2009, at 8:49 p.m.

Shakespeare famously wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” I recall this expression from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” as I travel down to Sderot to begin another week working at the town’s Media Center office. Sderot, a small Israeli city located less than a mile away from Gaza, is in its own right a stage — for weekly rocket attacks, post-trauma victims and visiting politicians.

The recent cease-fire, which began on Jan. 18, has not changed anything. Sderot residents are still entering bomb shelters weekly with the siren alert known as Tzeva Adom or Color Red going off and rockets exploding across the western Negev. The unilateral cease-fire with Hamas has brought thus far more than 120 rockets raining on Israel — and not a peep of condemnation from any international actor or the United Nations.

The possibility of a Qassam rocket landing anywhere, destroying any home or building, is just as probable now as it was during the war two months ago.

When I first began working in Sderot almost two years ago, I was innocent to the meaning of terror. I had never personally experienced a suicide attack or a bus bombing in Jerusalem. When the media center director interviewed me for the job, he asked me how I deal with terrorist attacks. I told him I had no idea.

I can write that I now have unfortunately a very firm idea of what terror is and what it can do to you both physically and psychologically. In the past few months, I have witnessed rocket terror attacks that remain imprinted in my mind.

Back in December 2008, the Color Red alarm had gone off one day during work, part of the routine day warning of an impending rocket. Our center had no available bomb shelter at that time, so the staff and I would simply leave the computer stations and crowd in the center of the office away from the windows. This time around, I didn’t feel like getting up, for whatever reason, but Eliran, our technician, forced me to and I joined everyone else.

And then we all heard it together — the shriek of the rocket as it sailed over our center and slammed with a tremendous explosion about 50 meters away. I felt the air stir as the rocket landed and heard people crying out.

I remember just standing there, my mind blank. Inside I was shaking, but then I began working in media mode. The only thing that we can do when this happens is snap photos, film and document the attack.

Miraculously, the rocket did not slam into a building or physically injure anyone. It had found itself an isolated corner and was buried deep in the ground. However, the impact of the explosion had shattered all the office windows in the area. I entered a barbershop, a travel agency, a computer repair shop. There were crude pieces of broken glass and debris littering the desks and floors everywhere.

Everyone had made it in time to the shelter within the 15 seconds of the siren sounding and the rocket exploding. Had anyone remained standing near a window, the exploding glass would have caused some very serious injuries.

I lost my appetite that day.

After that attack, it was very difficult for me to return to work. Each time I entered Sderot, I did so only by pushing my rational thoughts aside. I began to think that rockets would fall anywhere and that I could very well be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I remember waking up one morning to the sound of the siren and then realizing that I was sleeping in Jerusalem. There was no alarm; it was just in my head.

It is abnormal that I have to be afraid and find myself racing to a bomb shelter several times a week when I’m in Sderot. It is abnormal that today nearly 1 million Israelis in the southern area of the country are now threatened by Hamas rockets.

Recently, two U.S. congressmen visited Sderot for an hour after spending an entire day in Gaza. Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Brian Baird, D-Wash., toured the city, visiting area bomb shelters, protected schools and the Amar family, whom President Obama also visited during his campaign last year after their home was destroyed by a direct rocket hit.

At the police station, against the backdrop of Qassam rockets stored away, the congressmen asked many questions. As I was the translator, I had the opportunity to get a firsthand impression of the visitors. At one point, Rep. Ellison picked up a Qassam rocket and pointed out how heavy it was. “I could work out with this,“ he joked.

On the surface, I wondered if the congressmen truly understood the kind of impact that eight years of Gaza rocket fire has on a civilian population. After all, it took me two years to completely understand the meaning behind rocket terror.

I only hope that the world does not ignore the major role that Hamas continues to play on this stage of the Middle East conflict. As rocket fire continues and Hamas once again rebuilds its military infrastructure and rocket supply, Sderot and Palestinian civilians can only wonder if peace will ever make a permanent appearance in this region.

Anav Silverman is a 2004 Calais High School graduate. She is a student at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and works in Sderot for the Sderot Media Center (www.SderotMedia.com).

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