“Our children are constantly in a sense of controlled panic – sometimes not so controlled. And sometimes the adults simply can’t deal with their fear any more either.”
Despite the reported “cease fire” from last week, Palestinians from the Gaza Strip fired twenty more rockets at Israel over Saturday, and a further six were fired on Saturday night. Since June 18, over 150 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel – more than the entire total since last August.
Children have been unable to attend the last two weeks of the school year, graduation parties have had to be cancelled, and the children – together with their families – have been spending days on end in hot and poorly ventilated bomb shelters, as another Summer vacation spent in fear of falling bombs looms.
OneFamily has been in the Sderot and “Gaza Envelope” area every day during this most recent deterioration. There are close to 300 families in this region who have already suffered serious injury or the death of a loved one in previous rocket attacks, and every one of them is reliving their own personal nightmare.
“364 children can’t come out of their bomb shelters to go to school,” said a OneFamily social worker. “87 of them are under the age of 6, and are too scared to even look outside,” she said.
On Saturday night June 23, we spent hours on the phone with families in Sderot who have already been victimized by rocket attacks in the past. One woman who suffered serious physical and emotional trauma in a rocket attack six years ago, said that Israel has recently installed an “Iron Dome” anti-rocket battery near Sderot. The rockets used to shoot down incoming Kassams are very effective – when the system is activated.
The Iron Dome system successfully shot down one rocket aimed at Sderot on Saturday, and five others aimed at Ashkelon, but even that success has not allayed the fears of the residents, because now there is a new problem. When the Iron Dome rocket hits an incoming Kassam, the explosion created in the air is extremely loud. Residents huddled in their shelters hear the explosion, and now they don’t know whether it’s from an incoming Kassam or from the Iron Dome scoring another “hit”.
Several residents of Sderot emerged from their shelters to find emergency workers collecting hundreds of pieces of shrapnel from their front yards – the remnants of an Iron Dome rocket that had shot down an incoming Kassam.
The frequent explosions that can be heard throughout the area leave every resident with a sense of unending panic. Each one is brought back to their own injury, their own loss, or their own near-death experience in a previous rocket attack.
“The city of Sderot, and in fact the entire region, should put up a sign at the entrance saying, ‘There but for the grace of G-d go I,” said one resident. “It could just as easily be my house, my family, myself.”
“It is simply not natural to live with this kind of constant, unending fear,” said another resident. “Our children are constantly in a sense of controlled panic – sometimes not so controlled. And sometimes the adults simply can’t deal with their fear any more either.”
OneFamily has identified 298 families, with a total of 364 children among them, who are in desperate need of an outlet to relax their frayed nerves and obtain some emotional reinforcement so that they can face the deteriorating situation with grater stability. We are looking for a sponsor to provide a retreat for these families so that we can give them the opportunity to gain some breathing room and to regain a sense of calm in their lives.
“You are the only ones who have been here the entire time,” said one woman. “Yes rockets, no rockets, it doesn’t matter. You are the ones we know we can count on.”