Except this young lady, writing to her grandparents in the US, lives in Sderot, a little town in southern Israel, close to the border of Gaza. Since Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, in return for peace, Sderot and the town of Ashkelon have been peppered with Kassam rockets. Over 4,000 fell in one year. They live like this every day. The fear and stress is massive, as well as the economic impact.
This is an innocent, simple little snapshot of living in the valley of the shadow of death.
Hat tip to Israellycool
and The Israel Project for the photos
Dear Granny and Grandpa
I wanted to thank you so much for the beautiful card you sent me for my 18th birthday. I love getting birthday cards from you, they’re always so unique.
I’m really excited this year, I finally feel a little grown up, living in an apartment in Sderot with 7 other girls. I live in a very nice neighborhood with both religious and secular families and a lot of cute kids. (It’s great to earn some extra money babysitting).
As you probably know already, I’m teaching about Judaism to secular kids in kindergartens, elementry schools, junior highs, and in nearby kibbutzim. The job is tiring. We work about 11 hours a day. In the mornings we’re teaching and in the afternoons and nights preparing for our next classes. We’re only four girls in this program, so it’s really hard work, but very enjoyable and satisfying. The girls I’m working with are all fun and very dedicated. Even though it’s only been a couple of months, we’ve been through so much together that it seems like we’ve always known one another. They’re really nice girls (one girl, I discovered, was with me in kindergarden- it was very funny).
We all pitch in to keep the apartment at least a little clean and try hard to eat proper meals, though it’s really hard. For one thing, food is so expensive and we get paid so little. We mostly eat bread and pasta. A lot of pasta. Pasta, past, pasta…
In Sderot itself, we’re all together twenty four girls doing national service. Some girls are counselors in high schools, some are the heads of the youth group that I used to be in, called “B’nei Akiva”. Some are tour guides, some work in soup kitchens. I recently decided to spend some of the little free-time we have, volunteering as a counselor in a youth group for girls called “Ariel”. I’m in charge of about twenty-five screeching little munchkins. It’s weird being a counselor again (remember when I was a counselor in Beer Sheva two years ago for two years, for boys and girls around the same age as these munchkins), but I love kids! and these girls are so sweet!
Sderot is a very special city, not only because it gets bombed so often, but because so many of the people who live there are so amazing. For one thing, they’re always inviting us over for meals, and despite everything they’re going through, the fear for their houses and constant worry for their children – when they’re at school and when they’re at home, the lack of customers at their stores & restaurants, they smile and talk to you on the street. People in Sderot are happy to share what they have. They have this special warmth in them, which helps you have courage.
About the “kassamim”. Technically, there is a cease fire, and before last week only once in a while they still shot a rocket or two just to remind us that they don’t mean it… Last year there were days when sixty rockets would fall. This week the IDF found a tunnel that the terrorists had dug next to the border in order to kidnap and kill more soldiers. When our soldiers went in to destroy the tunnel, there was a battle and they killed six of the terrorists. As revenge, they fired forty rockets towards the settlements around Gaza, including Sderot.
I’ve been in Sderot when a “kassam” fell, but the experience I had the other day was a little different. At four-thirty in the morning the siren that gives us 17 seconds to find shelter went off: A voice on a loudspeaker blaring “tzeva adome” “tzeva adome” (”color red, color red”), telling us that a rocket had just been fired. My friends and I jumped out of our beds and ran to our protective room and shut the door. A second later we realized we had forgotten to wake two of the girls. Somehow they didn’t hear the siren and were still sleeping. We felt so bad that we didn’t wake them, but we all went back to bed thanking G-d that no one was injured from that rocket and that we were all safe.
The next day, at school, we asked the kids how they felt. One little boy answered that he was tired, because like all of us (well, most of us) he woke up in the midle of the night from the siren and couldn’t fall back to sleep. This is how people have been living for the last 7 years! I hope we won’t need to experience anymore of this running and hiding, it’s pretty annoying I can tell you. Unfortunately, everyone knows it is far from over.
I’m so glad I finally found time to write to you. I love you so much and so want to hear about how you’re doing. So, are you happy about Obama’s win?
I miss you. Do you know when you’re coming yet? I can’t wait to see you guys.
Write when you get a chance.
Have a great Shabbat, I love you guys so much!