On Friday there was a country-wide caravan down to Sderot. People from all over the country were encouraged to drive down to Sderot and do their regular weekly shopping in the beleaguered town. The point was to support the people of Sderot, both financially and emotionally.
Sderot is located in a beautiful part of Israel. The recent rains have forged lush green landscapes dotted with red kalaniyot. At Kibbutz Yad Mordecai, convoys from countless cities converged to create a huge traffic jam into the town.
"We will not abandon Sderot"
It's a beautiful, clean town, with neat homes and apartment buildings. On this day, there were people everywhere. There was an upbeat atmosphere. It is not a tourist town, and we were encouraged to make our everyday purchases there. People filled their carts in the supermarkets, ate in the cafes and restaurants and soaked in the atmosphere.
There were no politics here. No right or left, chiloni or dati. Just Jews supporting Jews.
"Sderot is in our hearts"
I walked around, absorbing it all. I was so proud of these people, proud of myself that I could even consider participating in this event.
"Peretz Center thanks [its visitors] for your support of the city" (They are thanking ME???)
One of the last stops we made was in a take-out place, where I met Ronit. She was so thankful for us coming in to her store. I asked her how she was doing, and she spoke to us for a long time. She said, (and I'm paraphrasing) "I am a Bat Sderot--a daughter of Sderot--I was born here, and my father (she gestured to him) was one of the founders of this town. I will never leave this place; it is my home and I won't be driven out. But it is difficult. Many have left, not only because they are afraid, but because they can't make a living here. We own a beautiful catering hall, and there have been no smachot (parties) there for the past five years. I now work in a factory to support my family. I used to have faith in my government, in the army, but no longer. They have abandoned us. But when people like you come, we know that the people are with us, and that you care. And that fills me with hope...."
As I walked around the city, I heard singing, and the strains of an accordian coming from a restaurant. I went inside to find an old-fashioned kumsitz going on.
They clapped their hands and danced and sang,
"VeHa--eekar, Lo Lefakhed klal"--"And the main thing is not to fear at all".
That just slew me. Look at their faces--to feel the utter presence of joy in that place was such a priviledge for me. Because that is really the only word that can describe that day in Sderot: Simcha--joy.
When I was trying to arrange a ride down to Sderot, someone asked me why I even wanted to go. I was astounded by this question. It's been a hard six months for us, adjusting to this new life of ours. There have been times I have questioned the sanity of our decision. But on Friday, I remembered a feeling that I used to have in America that I no longer have: I used to feel that those people are there in the land intended for us experiencing all kinds of things that I am not a part of. I felt that I was sitting on the periphery of our nation's history. Now I hear about kassams falling daily on the people of Sderot. Most of the time I go about my business and try not to think about it, because really what could I do? But on Friday I had the opportunity, for a few short hours to be there with those people. I got to go home, but Ronit still has to run to her shelter umpteen times a day. How could I not go? This day was not about me going to help them. This day helped me. It gave me chizuk to know that I am no longer sitting on the sidelines of history. It taught my children something huge.
This day brought me pure, simple, unadulterated Simcha.
My husband and I made Aliyah in September, 07. We came with three daughters, ages 10, 12 and 14. Aliyah is not an easy adjustment for all us at our advanced ages, but we are happy to be here in the land of the Jewish people and are rising to the challenge of learning to be real Israelis (!).