Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rockets like Rainfall

The Israeli city of Sderot has to be the heaviest place in the world.  Forced to protect itself from the thousands of rockets launched from it's western border with the Gaza Strip, Sderot's thick cement, bomb resistant architecture makes it Israel's first inhabited cinderblock. Now if that weight were not enough, learning of the eminent danger that unwaveringly lingers in the streets of Sderot immediately placed a heavy burden on my shoulders.  Thrown into a situation where upholding an acute awareness of your surroundings can be the difference between reaching safety and being blown to pieces by shrapnel is like nothing I have ever experienced.  Simple strolls past parks and through neighborhoods turned into constant searches for the nearest bomb shelter.  My safe, modest upbringing seems worlds away compared to the grim conditions Sderot endures daily.

Hundreds of exploded rockets have accumulated at the city's police station.

Despite my uneasiness, the citizens of Sderot have done their best to transcend this burden and attempt to acclimate their lives to the bombings in order to live them as normally as possible.  The Israeli government spent twenty-eight thousand dollars reinforcing every household in the city, each bus stop was turned into a concrete safe haven the size of a small bedroom, and a city-wide alarm system was installed to warn civilians of incoming rockets.  What I found most striking was a playground whose large caterpillar shaped sculptures were designed to double as a bomb shelter for children at play.  Despite all of these changes, the population refuses to allow them to hamper their lifestyles and instead integrate them into everyday life.

This playground also doubles as a bomb shelter for children at the park.

Our tour guide told us an anecdote about a young boy who said he had no intention of moving away from Sderot when he got older. After being asked why he felt so strongly about remaining in his hometown rather than moving to New York City or London, the boy said that nowhere else has bomb resistant bus stops or reinforced playground equipment and therefore couldn't keep him as safe as he is in Sderot.  In a sense, it's a tragedy that the boy assumes living a dangerous life is such a normality, but in another, the resiliency and loyalty that is required to fully adopt such a dangerous lifestyle is beautiful. and is a testament to Israel's love for their country.

photo credit: Jack Guez, Max Fruchter