Linda [Epstein, Director of JUF's Israel office] set up a meeting with Avi, who runs the community centers there, and with Kobe, who is the policeman responsible for securing the sites after a rocket falls. We went to the police station and met the guy who's job it is to clear away the rockets, saw the unbelievable stack of hundreds of rockets behind the police station, including the one that fell 2 days ago. I got an education on the difference between an Islamic Jihad rocket (white or blue) and a Hamas rocket (red and green, plus different shaped fins). Saw the Grad that landed in Askelon a few weeks ago (Grads fall straight down, which allows them to spread 200 yards from impact and kill more people). It really turned my stomach, to be honest with you. Throughout the town, there are shelters. To hear the stories about the kids affected by the fact that they can't go outside without thinking about where to go if a siren goes off. Then, we went up on the hill (Kobe's Hill - 800 yards from the fence) to see Gaza, Kobe pointed out the various places they fire from, showed us where the Eretz crossing was, where a 4 TON bomb went off yesterday, and told the story about the young suicide bomber who they caught 10 months ago in Sderot, who had cut through the wire (and who was being guided to his target, luckily unsuccessfully, by an Israeli Arab citizen). Kobe also told us that the Israeli who was killed 2 weeks ago was a very close friend of his and he was the first one on the scene. Having to pick up the pieces of one of his best friends. It was pretty tough to hear that story. He never flinched, by the way.
This is important. It meant something for those guys to have me there. These tough Israelis, literally on the front line of the conflict. They were touched by my desire to visit. They are true heroes. As Kobe said, he isn't doing this for the money (he wears a beeper 24 by 7 and literally goes to every single site a rocket lands).
As we walked out of the police station, we saw this brand new, shiny BMW X5 sitting there and Kobe explained that there is this guy from Tel Aviv who comes to Sderot every Friday to volunteer in the police station to give a policeman a day off. He is a businessman from Tel Aviv. This is Israel.
Jim Woldenberg participated in JUF’s Lachish Development Taskforce trip to Israel last week for two days of meetings to learn about the Government of Israel’s plan to develop new communities and to strengthen existing communities in the Lachish region. Lachish is located in Israel’s northern negev and is part of JUF’s Partnership 2000 region: Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir. After those meetings Jim, accompanied by JUF’s Israel Office Director Linda Epstein, visited Sderot to see first hand what that community continues to endure. These excerpts are from an e-mail he sent to friends in Chicago.