As the rockets rain in Sderot, even the dogs need Valium
You know things are getting pretty grim when you have to put your dog on Valium to cope with stress.
Or plant gum trees around your home to obscure it from terrorists firing rockets at you.
Or build bomb shelters in the local school so your kids don’t get blown to pieces in the playground.
For about 24,000 people living in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, where half the town’s inhabitants and their pets are on some form of tranquilliser for mental trauma, that is the toll they pay simply to live in Israel.
Minutes before all hell broke loose yesterday in the skies over Sderot, on the border of Hamas-controlled Gaza, I was among a group of eight Australian journalists invited by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies to discuss life under the Iron Dome - the name given to the Israeli missile defence system designed to protect them.
They don’t talk of post traumatic stress disorder. There is no “post” says 23-year-old Sivan Hanukayer. “We are in a constant state of stress,” she says.
Like any normal Australian family, they worry about the rising cost of living - mortgage repayments, power prices, grocery bills.
But they have an added burden. Three kilometres away, and visible from a dirt mound on the edge of town, is the city of Gaza, where 1.5 million Palestinians live under the grip of terror imposed by Hamas and its Jihadi brigades intent on erasing the Zionists from the land they claim to be Palestine.
They even have a smart phone app which alerts them to incoming rockets.
We went into Sderot under the false pretense of a ceasefire brokered the night before by the Muslim Brotherhood-led Egyptian government.
We didn’t know it at the time, but the Israeli Defence Force had already pushed the button on operation Cloud Pillar, a new offensive to take out the Hamas leadership though guided missile strikes into Gaza.
It was only later, as we were being told by the Australian Embassy to flee southern Israel, we learned that the sound of a jet flying overhead was likely one of the Isreali F16s sent in to assassinate the Hamas military leader al-Jabari. Commercial planes don’t fly over Gaza.
Standing at the ANZAC memorial at Be’er Sheva, our fixer rushes over and demands everyone back on the bus. Yalla Yalla, she says. Hurry up.
War was imminent, and everyone was ordered inside to prepare for more rockets coming out of Gaza. We drove west, directly into the desert to get out of range, as we tried to work out how we would get back in.
No such luxury was afforded the people of Sderot.
Or the hundreds of people at a nearby Kibbutz, where Chen Abrahams and her family live in constant fear when the sirens wail and a female voice calmly alerts residents of an imminent attack.
The pet dogs are on Valium they are so stressed. “I am serious,” she says. “It’s crazy.”
Where the Israeli government has spent half a billion dollars on infrastructure, turning bus stops into bomb shelters, making schools missile proof and adding safe rooms to every house, Hamas, the self appointed government of Gaza, rips up its infrastructure to fire back at Israel.
Light poles, sewage pipes and anything metal is refashioned into backyard rockets filled with nails and ball bearings.
For the three days before we arrived, hundreds or rockets had rained down on Sderot and neighbouring cities such as Beer’sheva.
Sivan, who served a year in the military as a sentry on the border, showed us the arsenal of spent home made rockets piled up at the local police station.
They carried the monikers of the local Hamas Jihadi brigades that proudly launched them - usually between 7.30 and 8.30am when they know Israeli children are walking to school.
Minutes later, she and the residents of Sderot were back into their bomb shelters after Hamas warned that Israel had opened the “gates of hell”.
She says that when the rockets rain down, all she can think of is hate.
Wanting her enemies across the border “dead, erased”. When it’s over, and she returns to a rational state, she sympathises with the Palestinians across the border who are used as human shields by the Jihadists.
The Middle East this morning is bracing for the outbreak of full scale war between Israel and Hamas.
Noam Bedein, the director of the Sderot information centre says the entire town has been on edge for weeks.
It’s hard to lead your life constantly looking out for missile shelters just in case your 15 second race for life starts. That is how long they have to get into a bomb shelter before terror strikes.
“Mothers have to stop their cars, get out, try and unbuckle two kids, then get them to the shelter,” he told me yesterday.
“What the mothers are discovering is it’s impossible… They are being forced to choose: Which child do I save?”
Bedein was talking to the The Punch yesterday at the Sderot police station. In the past week, more than 100 Hamas missiles have hit this working class city of more than 20,000 people.
“This can’t continue,” he tells us. “It has to stop.”
Bedein, who has lived in the border town of Sderot for six years, said Israeli air strikes were continuing into the early evening and that residents were preparing for a full scale retaliation from Hamas factions in Gaza.
“It’s crazy, there are explosions everywhere.”
He said the town’s 20,000 residents had been ordered into shelters and schools had been closed indefinitely.
“It’s very intense at the moment. We are preparing for a full attack. It’s crazy, there are explosions everywhere.”
The Australian-born Israeli Government spokesman Mark Regev defended the strikes claiming that Israel was defending itself after days of rocket attacks on its civilians.
“No one should have to live this way,” he said. “We have acted as any responsible government would do to protect them.”
Al-Jabari has been responsible for hundreds of rocket attacks on Israeli towns including the Be’er Sheva, where the Australian light horse brigade are remembered for their heroic feats in 1918 - defending a land that is in a constant state of war.
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