Monday, March 26, 2007

Sderot 3: Life Under the Rockets

Arriving at our destination, Noam Bedein of the Sderot Information Center met us near one of the older apartment complexes in the city. Built prior to the laws passed after the First Iraq War requiring all buildings to have bomb shelters, the original apartment blocks of Sderot are completely unprotected.

One of the original tenement blocks of Sderot, circa 1950's.

Overall, the security situation in Sderot is one of grinding misery. Since the rocket launches have started seven years ago, families living in unprotected homes have crowded into the most protected rooms they can find.
"One of my friends' families," Noam tells us, "has been sleeping together in the living room for two years. Parents, children, everyone."
Evidence of the rocket attacks are everywhere, if you know where to look.

Damage from an Arab rocket attack on a public market.

What looks like an ordinary pothole is a recently repaired crater from a rocket attack.

Grooves cut in the brick, dug by shrapnell radiating outward from the impact location.

A view of the site of the same attack. Qassam rockets fire deadly shrapnel over 100 feet. Note the new glass on all the store windows.

People living under rocket threat are forced to make unbearable choices.

"I was in shul a few days ago when the 'Red Color' went off," Noam tells us. "I saw a father with two children, who was forced to decide which child to carry with him to the shelter."

The remains of Qassam rockets. Each terror gang paints its rockets a different color, in a sort of friendly Jew-killing competition.

Exploded Qassams

Occasionally, some money will shake loose from the government, or more often from private donors. The question then becomes where to spend the money. On researching a defensive system to shoot down the Qassams, or to fortify school buildings.

Driving through the town, I suddenly realize the purpose of the half-tubes built over the buildings I saw coming in.
Rocket protection over a school building.

But rocket proofing the schools has not been easy. To completely protect a school building costs two to three times as much as the building itself. In order to avoid the cost of completely protecting the school buildings, the government only provided a fraction of the funds necessary. The argument was that children in grades one through three would not be able to empty a classroom in fifteen seconds, but older kids would.

More rocketproofing over school buildings.

Shrapnel-proof windows.

To prove their point, the army filled a schoolroom with soldiers and ordered them to evacuate the room, which they did in under fifteen seconds. The fallacious argument that a classroom of fourth graders could be expected to evacuate with the same orderliness and precision as a group of adult, trained soldiers is laughable, but it prevented the government from having to pay for the additional fortifications. The city of Sderot is now suing the government for the extra funding required to completely rocketproof the schools.

The first rocket-proof Kindergarten in Israel. Note the thickness of the concrete.

By far the most disturbing idea is the long-term psychological effects that the terror bombardments will have on the children. Today there is a generation of children being raised who have never lived without the Qassam threat.

"A teacher told me that she asked her kindergarden class what the snail's shell was for. They all answered together, 'To protect it from the Qassams.'"

And what about going home from school? Well, you're on your own at that point.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Ephraim said...

Yes, this is the sort of thing that most Israelis prefer to look away from, knowing what the cost of fixing it would be.