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The following was written by . Anav made aliyah from Maine in 2004. She works in the Sderot Media Center and is a student at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel.
As part of my job in Sderot, I help facilitate tours in English for foreign visitors--generally diplomats, government officials, and press personnel. The tours encompass all aspects of living in a rocket reality from visiting unfortified schools, viewing actual kassam rockets, to speaking with area psychologists, and visiting with trauma victims and their families.
I always get a little shaken up when I visit a family traumatized by a rocket attack. Yesterday was no different, when I visited the Amar family, on Sinai Street, whose home was hit last Thursday. The first person that greeted me was Aliza Amar, sitting in her wheel chair in front of her partially destroyed home. She looks sad and forlorn, as neighbors come by to wish her and her family a quick recovery.
Aliza was hospitalized for almost four days for injury and shock. She explains to me that because she is physically handicapped, she has difficulty escaping to the bomb shelter, once the siren sounds. So when a rocket hit the Amar home on Thursday afternoon, December 13, Aliza, in her wheelchair, could not reach the shelter in time. The 15 seconds one has to escape to shelter once the alarm sounds was not enough time for Aliza. ‚The force of the rocket fall blew me off the chair, and I slammed into the kitchen wall,‚ says Aliza.
Her home is a site of complete devastation. The ceiling over the kitchen has completely collapsed. The sunlight pours through, illuminating a basket of orange tangerines covered with dirt and dust. Debris covers the entire kitchen floor. A family photo lies nearby, its frame and glass broken into pieces.
'Everything went black, and the next thing I know is that I am lying in the hospital in shock.' As Aliza speaks, her nine-year old daughter, Adi tightly holds her mother's hand. I ask her how she feels to have her mother back home but Adi does not respond. Her older brother, Moshe, is quick to explain that from all his siblings, Adi suffers the most from anxiety attacks. 'Every time, the siren sounds, Adi runs to those photos of great and righteous rabbis on the living room wall, and kisses them, hoping they will keep her safe,' says Moshe.
Moshe is serving his first year in the IDF army. He was not at home when the rocket landed, but stationed at the army base. 'As a soldier in the IDF, my job is to guard the jail where the terrorists who launch the rockets are caught and held,' says Moshe. 'It is a very difficult job for me, especially when I receive a call notifying me that my home and family have been hit. I leave the army base to come to my destroyed home. What am I fighting for?' asks Moshe. ' There is no limit to the number of terrorists in Gaza who continue to launch rockets freely against my friends and family in Sderot.'
Indeed, Moshe's family is currently living in a hotel in a city nearby as it will take several months for the insurance company to rebuild and fix the extensive damage done to the Amar home. Moshe's father, Pinchas, explains that their house is not the only home that was hit in the Thursday rocket attacks. Their neighbors, the Sasson family, also experienced the rocket attack, although their house sustained less damage and is considered livable.
The mother, Shula Sasson, however was less fortunate. She was transported to the hospital for shock and was treated for brain damage. Her husband and children were also treated for trauma and waited almost a week for Shula's return home.
The Amar and Sasson families, along with the rest of the families on Sinai street, have experienced up to seven rocket attacks on their neighborhood. One of the most traumatic attacks took place in May 2007, when a rocket hit a synagogue which 30 minutes before had been full with 400 congregants. The families on Sinai Street have seen many miracles, but the shock and trauma which results with each rocket attack continues to increase among the residents here.
It is the silence of nine-year old Adi Amar which is perhaps most unnerving and reflective of the trauma which the children of Sderot live through. Although she barely spoke during my visit, Adi's sad and fearful eyes express her feelings more clearly than words. I leave the Amar home, overcome with a sense of helplessness that has come to define the current spirit of Sderot residents.