Today I joined a group of journalists and headed down to Israel’s south. I was able to see for myself the trauma that the residents have experienced, not only in the past seven days of Operation Pillar of Defense but over many years.
While in Sderot, located only some 1.5 km from the Gaza Strip, we received word of a rocket strike on a nearby street.
Arriving only minutes later, the emergency services were already at the scene and the debris from a Palestinian rocket strike was being cleared.
A crater in the sidewalk indicated the exact location of the rocket strike. All around was evidence of the shrapnel that had peppered the area with deadly shards of metal.
Apartment windows shattered, the glass covering the ground in front of the building entrance.
Cars pocked with shrapnel embedded in the bodywork, windows blown out.
The journalists and I surveyed the scene taking photos and interviewing the local residents who appeared unfazed in the face of a threat that they have lived under for so long. A small boy paraded in front of the cameras carrying the twisted remains of the rocket itself.
Then the sudden sound of a metallic voice from the automated early warning system in Sderot: “Tzeva Adom, Tzeva Adom (Color Red, Color Red).”
Shouts of “take cover!”
15 seconds. That’s all the time you have to do just that. 15 seconds. It doesn’t give you much time to think.
Everywhere, people scattered, sprinting in all directions, journalists, emergency workers and local residents. The survival instinct kicks in.
I sprinted straight for the building that had already borne the brunt of the damage from the previous rocket strike. Several people ran through the shattered door and into the nearest ground floor apartment.
There was the surreal experience of realizing that I and the others that I’d followed had run straight through some random person’s living room.
We bundled into a reinforced room that also happened to be someone’s bedroom. People thanked a kid who probably never expected to see a horde of journalists taking cover in his bedroom.
After a few minutes it was safe to return to the street. While I have experienced a rocket attack before, during the 2006 Lebanon War, it isn’t something that I could ever get used to.
For the residents of Sderot and for a million Israelis in the south of the country, this is a reality that they live with day in day out.
Even with the Iron Dome, every rocket attack is a lottery. Nobody should have to live like that and everyone should hope that the IDF’s actions to defend Israel’s citizens will finally bring some peace and quiet.
Meanwhile, my colleagues in HR’s international headquarters were taking cover during a rocket attack on Jerusalem. Click here to see the video.