DL Israel #9: When A Countdown Can Mean Life Or Death

What can you do in fifteen seconds? Read a paragraph? Have a conversation? Eat a meal? In my hometown of Sderot fifteen seconds can be a matter of life and death.

Sderot is very close to the Gaza Strip. It has become a place of fear and separation but it was not always this way. My parents tell stories of a more peaceful time before the missiles started becoming a part of everyday destruction. When I was younger, things were not so bad but today there are children who grow up knowing nothing but conflict. My twelve year old brother associates red, not with an apple or a heart, but with survival. In Sderot “Code Red” is an alarm that sounds when a missile has been spotted and everybody has only fifteen seconds to get to the nearest bomb shelter.

It’s unfortunate that this is a reality but it is even sadder that a bomb shelter may not always be fifteen seconds away. Sometimes a house is the closest shelter available, but how much protection can a house protect against a rocket?

Ella Abuksis was a girl my age who did not make it to a shelter in time. She was walking home with her brother from Bnei Akiva when the alarm sounded. She knew they would not be able to make it to a bomb shelter so she stopped running and wrapped her arms around her little brother using her body to shield him from the explosion. The missile landed a few meters away and she was killed instantly but her brother survived. As an adult, he now serves in the IDF. Her selfless sacrifice is memorialized on a plaque on Mount Herzl.

These tragedies weigh heavily on everyone in the community. Mothers and fathers live anxiously in terror for the safety of their loved ones. My younger brother cannot play with friends, run to the market, or even go outside sometimes. He, like many children in Sderot, has been robbed of an innocent childhood.

Even when I’m in Jerusalem, where the allotted time to seek shelter is one minute, the ambulance sirens and 5am garbage pick up make it impossible to sleep through the night bringing me back to the realities of Sderot.

It is easy to hate Arabs for all of the irreplaceable lives lost and the lasting damage in Sderot and it is also easy to blindly hate all Arabs, despite the thousands of Arabs on the other side of the Gaza Strip who, like the people of Sderot, just want the violence to end. I do not hate Arabs but I will defend myself. This is what the IDF does, it defends itself from an enemy that refuses to explore alternative, nonviolent solutions.

I do not have a solution but hate cannot be the answer. Hate only tears apart humanity, leading only to further destruction. Education, on the other hand, is essential in moving toward stable, long lasting solutions. A balance of perspectives is necessary for peace talks. However, when there is not equal coverage in the media of both sides of the Gaza Strip, we forget that missiles are falling on both sides.

Idan Bitton

About the Author
The Dateline Israel blog is written by participants in "Newsroom to Newsroom," a trip sponsored by Taglit-Birthright Israel: MAYANOT and geared for practitioners and students of journalism. They'll be blogging it like they see it throughout their tour, which lasts until January 10.