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Playgrounds in Sderot

Playgrounds in Sderot

Welcome to the first playground in the world that is properly protected from falling rockets.


The other day in Sderot, I made an astonishing observation. Walking from the office after a long day at work to catch some sleep, I noticed I was not alone. Usually the city is deathly quiet once the sun sets, as parents refuse to let children play outside in the dark. Families prefer to remain at home together after a long day of siren alerts and rocket explosions.

High schoolers don't ride around as much with the music blasting and teenagers don't walk around listening to their iPods in case the "tzeva adom" red alert sounds. There's not much to do at night except maybe watch a movie and hope that Hamas rocket launchers decide to go to sleep, so that those of us living in Sderot can relax just a little bit.

So naturally, I was surprised when I noticed people outside on the street. For the first time since I've come to work in Sderot, Israel, I am seeing moms walking around with their strollers and neighbors playing cards outside on the porch.

A playground is full of children shouting and playing -- that is one sight that makes me do a double take. Playgrounds are pretty much empty here.

Then I realized that this is the new playground that everyone is talking about -- the first playground in the world that is properly protected from falling rockets. There are heavy concrete tubes that children can run to when the siren sounds for protection. Moms are finally feeling that it is safe enough to let their children play at a playground. The children look like they are having fun.

I spoke to Orna Cohen, a local mom. "I can finally let my grandkids outside to play in this new playground when they come to visit me in Sderot," says Orna. "Usually I have to keep them pent up inside the house. It's nice to have a playground like this where the children can play somewhat at peace, but it's obviously not a solution to living with the rocket fire."

About 70 to 94 percent of Sderot children now show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I just want the rockets to stop for good so that we don't have to live for these little moments of quiet that are followed by terrible barrages of Qassams," says Orna.

In any case, the children of Sderot definitely deserve some kind of break. About 70 to 94 percent of Sderot children now show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

On another interesting note, at the Sderot Trauma Center, the director, Dr. Adriane Katz, reported that the number of cases of shock and panic among Sderot residents has only risen since the beginning of the year. "The cease-fire is giving families, especially parents and kids, a chance to breathe a little," says Katz.

"This is not a real calm, however, because we know the rocket fire will resume soon," says Katz. "Most people anticipate another heavy round of rocket fire based on what happened in the last cease-fire."

Indeed, over 300 Palestinian rockets were fired at Sderot from Gaza during the last Hamas cease-fire from November 2006 to May 2007. Since this cease-fire began on June 19, nine Qassams and mortar shells have been fired at Sderot and the western Negev communities in the past month.

It's also fairly obvious to everyone that this cease-fire has not prevented Hamas from stockpiling its weapons. In the last cease-fire, Hamas stockpiled more weapons and rocket material, and trained more soldiers to attack our troops. They are doing the same thing now. On Hamas's Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades Web site, a senior Hamas official states that the calm is considered a victory for Hamas, a chance "to recharge power." On the Hamas Web site, the terrorist group continues to call for the destruction of the state of Israel, glorifying terrorists as "martyrs." If Hamas can't actively fire rockets, then the regime can passively do so by preparing for the next strategic round of rocket fire. Who is fooling who?

Unfortunately and tragically, in the next round of events, it will be the residents of Sderot and the western Negev who pay a heavy price for this temporary calm.

Although we are all enjoying this nice respite from the hell we've been experiencing this year — over 2,000 Qassams and mortar shells have hit the western Negev since January, killing four people and wounding hundreds — we know that the worst is being planned out now. How long will the Israeli government allow Sderot residents to act as pawns in Hamas's strategic game of rocket warfare?

Until next time … see you at the new playground.

August 10, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) Anonymous, September 9, 2008 8:29 AM

The real protection is to stop the attacks once for all

Though this is a way to give these kids some freedom and allow them to play in the outdoors,which is essential for kids to grow up correctly, the real way to stop this craziness is to make the international societies like UNESCO, be aware of the situation these children are living and a world peace force to stop these attacks. I know Israel is very talkative about these issues in international meetings, but Israel is not the problem, the problem is that the people to whom the message is sent are totally deaf. I know, I always have to remind myself, that these are israeli children, many of them jews, so they have to pay the cost of the ignorance and racism adults, in positions of power and decision, have. I hope some day, fairness come to the area and the rest of the worls, and finally Israel could live in a longlasting peace, so its children could enjoy their infancy. I just say Israel, because its society is the only one committed with peace. If it were otherwise,this conflict would have stopped long time ago.

(3) Yehoshua Friedman, August 14, 2008 6:37 AM

Deal with the causes!

Building all the concrete or metal barricades and shelters in the world won't help. There are only two things we need to do: 1)return to Hashem, and 2)do our job (hishtadlut) in not giving in to our enemies. The politicians and members of the elite are too busy lining their pockets and settling scores to defend the country. Eventually the missiles will get to Tel Aviv, Herzlia and Savion and not just to Sderot, Netivot and Ashkelon. Hashem wants us all to cry out to Him and realize we are all His people. He wants us to reach out to those of our people who are lost among the nations including among our Arab neighbors. And he wants us to be a light to the nations with our behavior and our Torah.

(2) Anny Matar, August 12, 2008 3:22 AM

We all know how wonderful it is to feel free to play

Children everywhere should be allowed to run,jump,skip,laugh,listen to loud music and play but Shderot's have missed out on it for 7 years, they had to spend their "free time" in shelters with worried, crying, despertate mothers who were trying to protect their children, as far as possible, from being mamed or murdered by those who send their smallchildren as Shai'dim. In Gaza they don't cherish life nor do they cherish freedom, now, that there is "temporary" cease fire with Israel they murder their own El Fatah, (Arafat's rise to power) When the unifying hatred of Israel is at "so called peace" and they have no one to fight they fight each other but, we do know, that soon their arsenal will be used against us, till then, let the children live as ordinary children have a right to. Now they have a place to hide quickly which is most important for those young ones. At last someone has done something for those so close and yet so far from us. Maybe one day we'll be as clever as they are and build Kassamim and send them back, no one will be able to complain because we just return what we get. Anny Matar Israel

(1) Anonymous, August 11, 2008 1:35 AM

It's not a solution, but at least our children feel protected!

This is definitely not a solution, but it helps the children feel safer.Recently my high school students raised money to help build a safe playground for children to play. It was a school event and it was a huge success, as they raised over $10,000.W need to take more action, as we can make a difference. Finally there is an awareness out there and a concern for those who are less fortunate than us to live freely in their own home. Yaasher koach to those who made it possible!

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