Wednesday, January 07, 2009

I've been feeling awful about going on with my everyday life, while people in the south are suffering and soldiers are fighting. So I went down to Sderot to visit my friend Miki who has been living there for the past year. I hoped that I might somehow make myself useful there, even if only by showing the locals some solidarity.

You'll have to forgive me but I'm going to have to slide into sappy cliches here because there is no other way to describe what I experienced. I think I met a fair number of the world's lamed-vav tzadikim there. Miki himself is a well-known figure who could spend his time seeking publicity. But, as I shlepped around Sderot with him this is what transpired:

As we walked through the streets, your typical development town bench-sitters came over to discuss the matzav. The standard hello is "If we had done this eight years ago after the first Kassam, or at least after the first Kassam after the hitnatkut, we wouldn't be in this mess." There ends the "duh" part of the dialogue. Here's the continuation. First guy: "Since the Kassam hit my house last year, my wife has been paralyzed and I have to take care of our four kids by myself. And three weeks ago I had to close my shop, since there's no street traffic." Second guy: "But, baruch hashem, we're not miskenim. I'm just worried about my son in Gaza. Oh, and my daughter. Ever since she was injured by a Kassam two years ago, she hasn't been able to go to school."

Then, suddenly a loud recorded voice "Tzeva Adom, Tzeva Adom" sends everyone scurrying for the nearest shelter. A few seconds later there's a loud boom and everyone resumes what they were doing without comment.

Miki takes me to check out a bomb shelter outfitted as an after-school hangout where Ethiopian kids can get help with homework and play on computers Miki managed to find funding for. A fellow in his early twenties with a nose ring who directs the activities calmly explains to Miki what problems need attention and Miki makes a few calls to try to solve them.

As we drive to another such shelter, another Tzeva Adom sends us racing to the nearest bus shelter. Wait for the boom, resume life. I'm beginning to get the idea.

Another shelter better outfitted than the first with board games, art supplies, computers and mattresses. A young fellow with three earrings is taking care of Yisrael Meir and a few other kids of varying ages and backgrounds. He tells me that the shelter functions 24 hours a day since some families are afraid to stay in their apartments at night. Miki listens to the list of problems, makes some calls to solve them. No reporters, no photographers.

Next we head to a bomb shelter to which City Hall has relocated. This is headquarters also for pikud ha-oref, in charge of dealing with the fallout from the Kassams. As soon as we enter, another Tzeva Adom and then, immediately after, another. Everyone jumps into action. No need to run-- this shelter could probably withstand a nuclear warhead -- but presumably everyone down here has some job to do when a rocket lands.

Then we head over to a hill on the edge of town that overlooks Gaza. Various photographers, police and just gawkers come and go. One local couple has brought a lawn chair and binoculars and provide commentary. The routine is machine gun fire ("That's our guys trying to prevent an imminent rocket launch") followed by a puff of smoke ("We missed. The black smoke means it's a grad, the angle of the smoke show's it's headed towards Beer Sheva.") Up here, we have time to talk some politics and Miki asks me to explain to him again why I think Feiglin was ripped off by the decision to lower him on the list. He gets it.

Another Tzeva Adom. I'm beginning to get blase.

On the way back to my home planet, I stop in Ofakim to visit my son, who's with a bunch of teenagers volunteering. They're taking care of kids in a shelter. He hasn't got a nose ring or earrings, but he's a good kid.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Y. Ben-David said...

Am Israel Chai! This just goes to show that Jews are tougher people than the antisemites and the post-Zionist ruling oligarchy think. How else could have we survived for centuries in them most difficult environments?

8:13 PM  
Anonymous JewWishes said...

Stay safe, be well. Your post is so heartfelt...thank you for writing it.

8:41 PM  

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