Jerusalem, Israel - June 22, 2022 - In 2009, the year after Operation Cast Lead, 242 missiles landed in the Sderot area, down from more than 3,200 rockets and mortars in 2008. In 2012, two a day was the average of 440 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel. Before Operation Pillar of Defense, in November 2012, "it was raining rockets in southern Israel" with Sderot residents on the front lines of the Hamas terrorism.
On Tuesday, June 21, Friends of Sderot, with Rabbi Ari Katz of the Yeshivat Hesder Sderot, led a 6-stop media tour to show Sderot is not a ghost town under missile attack. Sderot is filled with parks and is growing with the Yeshiva playing an integral role in the community.
Traffic circles are filled with flowers and modern sculptures. The population has grown to over 30,000, with young married children returning to Sderot, and new expanding neighborhoods are under development. There are cement bomb shelters every few meters and all homes have a safe room. No one knows when Hamas will decide to shoot rockets again, but the Irom Dome has helped over the past 10 years and the people are resilient.
As each stop could be a story on its own, BJL will outline highlights meant to draw tourists to Sderot, to appreciate what has been accomplished while being under constant threat, with an accompanying photo essay.
Roklen Reslisience Center
Ephraim Rosenfeld showed the new Sderot Resilience Center where residents can take advantage of the therapy rooms. The percentage of children needing help with PTSD is high, and seeking help is no longer seen as a negative, so more are receiving the help they need living and growing under constant threat.
Sderot Animal Assisted Therapy Center
Rosenfeld is trained as an Animal Therapist and showed a live snake as well along with the dog, birds, and goat on the calming landscaped grounds of the center with a large mural with a "Please Touch" sign. While the bomb shelters around town are painted with colorful outside walls, the shelters placed in this therapy center were plain light color cement.
Beit HaMesodim - Sderot Museum
The third stop was to see the new Founders' Museum, still under construction. Many Israeli musicians are from Sderot, and music is the theme as one enters the cool airconditioned modern building. The early residents, immigrants from Kurdistan and Iran in 1951, lived in tents with no running water or electricity. Sderot has come a long way with education playing an important role. The museum features an interactive modern theater with a green background for visitors to produce their own videos. Could the first olim in Sderot, meaning"Avenues" for the eucalyptus trees they planted, ever have imagined such a thing?
Fourteen years ago, four people in a room at Sapir College, started the Negev branch of AMDOCS. Its modern web and mobile technology are hard to explain, but its building in Sderot is modern and impressive. It is an Israeli startup that has gone global, serving billions of customers, and has kept a branch in the periphery. BJL noticed that in the kitchen there were clearly marked meat and dairy sponges for in Sderot Jewish tradition is a significant factor in the community.
Jewish National Fund (JNF) has contributed significantly to Sderot for multiple institutions, including those mentioned above, as well as the indoor large children's playground. Also, the Moskowitz Family made a generous donation for the newest park in Sderot. With a lake and play equipment including a Ninja exercise area, it covers a vast area. Being Sderot, there are cement shelters located every few meters. Colorful and entertaining murals cover the outside walls, with one featuring Ilan Ramon z"l. The shelters are locked. However, in case of a red alert emergency alarm, the doors are programmed to open at once so people in the park can get to a safe space immediately.
Mayor Alon Davidi
For almost ten years, Alon Davidi has served as the Mayor of Sderot. Married to Nurit he is the father of seven children. Originally from Beer Sheva, and yeshiva educated, he has BA in Education and MA in Administration and Public Policy. He arrived in Sderot 22 years ago, after teaching in the local high school, he managed the Sderot Yeshiva before being elected mayor. In his office, Davidi proudly pointed out the new neighborhoods and answered questions for nearly an hour.
Always a treat on a visit to Sderot is the opportunity to go to the roof of the Sderot Yeshiva and see how the city has grown and is expanding.
With hundreds of young men learning in the Beit Midrash, now Sderot has also a women's learning option. The Serot Hesder Yeshiva was founded in 1994 by Rabbi Dovid Fendel.
Thank you to host for the day Rabbi Ari Katz, Director of PR Yeshivat Hesder Sderot, and Director of the Sderot Media Center for showing Sderot should be known more for its lovely resilient community, than as a city under missile attack. Thanks also to Joshua Hasten for organizing a meaningful day.