Her name is Danielle Ohana. She is twenty three years old and she lives in Sderot.
She does not want you to feel sorry for her, weep for her or for any of her fellow residents in that town.
“I love Sderot,” she told me. “We have an amazing community with remarkable people who are benevolent and full of Love.” It is the reality which was forced upon it, according to her, that has made that place so special and its people so unique.
Those who have been to Sderot know what she means. It is a different, dangerous and stressful place. Sderot has been under a constant threat and attack of Qassam, Grad and other rockets for thirteen years. Such attacks are never announced beforehand and can happen any day and any moment. The Gazan rocket launchers have no consideration for children who are on school holiday, elderly people who enjoy a stroll in the park or adults who are on their way to work. Once the “Color Red” siren sounds, the residents of Sderot all have fifteen seconds to take cover regardless of where and who they are with. Mothers are sometimes faced with a “Sophie’s Choice” actuality when it comes to making the decision which child to bring to shelter. Some may never make it to a shelter and are left helpless.
The people of Sderot are faced with two choices. They can enter the safe room, sit there powerlessly and remain playthings in the hands of fate and the harsh reality. Most, however, choose to take their destiny into their own hands and shape it rather than let the enemy do it for them. They defy fear, death and despair. They choose Life. They volunteer, empower others or join demonstrations in support of the IDF. It is this reality that has turned people like Danielle into Active Zionists. She is the director of the local chapter of “Im Tirzu,” an advocacy group for Israel’s legitimacy, locally and internationally.
“One has to visit Sderot for merely one day in order to get to know its residents, to feel the warmth, inhale the scents, savor the tastes and experience the potency of enlistment towards every needed task or assignment,” Danielle told me.
Along with other members of the Sderot community, Danielle decided to pass on their message, a message that encapsulates the daily life in the town of Sderot, a concept that, for some, is hard to grasp. They do it through a project called “A Box of Crayons without the Color Red.”
A Box of Crayons without the “Color Red.” The three weeping flags are in memory of Gil-Ad Shaar, Naftali Frankel and Eyal Yifrach. The extra tear stands for the Arab boy, Mahmoud Abu Khadeir. May they all rest in Peace.
One of the veteran and very creative teachers in Sderot, Hedva Shadadi, is the initiator of this project. As one in whose ears the words “Color Red” continue to echo and one who is haunted by the fearful faces of her students, Hedva decided to give expression to other uses and meanings of the color red. ” Red is the color conveying the joys of Life,” Hedva wrote to me. “We have removed the red crayon from the box. Right now, for many of us, this color is associated with war, pain and suffering. We will bring it back into the box when it returns to symbolize, Love, the color of Roses and Hope.”
Until such time, the people of Sderot will continue to enter the safe room at the sound of “Color Red.” During the rest of the time, the courageous residents of Sderot will simply go on about their daily routine, continue to work for their community, strengthen the hands of the soldiers, organize mass prayers, hug each other and remain a source of inspiration to many of us in the rest of Israel.