Day 9

Netiv HaAsara peace wall project – May 4, 2022

By Andrea Potashnick

I almost didn’t come on our group excursion today. I’d heard about the city of Sderot on social media. Bordering with Gaza and with tensions in the area rising, rockets had landed in the city only a few weeks prior. After multiple reassurances from our leaders, friends in the cohort, our guides and security, I decided to go and not give into my fear.

We met two local residents who toured us around their homes and communities in Sderot. They told us about their families and daily lives. We saw children walking on their way to school and the local center for senior citizens. We passed bus stops and homes with cars parked in the driveway, gardens with a vast variety of colorful flowers, sculptures in the middle of roundabouts, and a community pool which I imagined to be packed on a non-school day.

We also saw bomb shelters on every street. Made of cement, some were plain white, while others were painted bright colors with messages and images of hope. We visited a local playground with a large climbing structure that functions as a bomb shelter for families that are out for a day of fun at the park. We visited the Path to Peace Project, where people stick colorful stones onto a barrier wall, all while only 300 yards away, across an additional fence and wall, stands a visible tower built by Hamas.

I can imagine the terror that the people of Sderot experience on a regular basis. I picture them rushing to the nearest bomb shelter with only a 15 second warning. I will never understand what it feels like to hold your child, hoping and praying that this time your lives are spared.

What was evident to me from the moment I met the people of Sderot is that they do not give into their fear. They are proud of the homes and lives they have built in Israel. Some grew up in the city, while others have moved there for work or the lower cost of housing. They go about their lives, hoping and praying for peace, but with the reality of always knowing where the nearest bomb shelter is located. They are an inspiring community, unwilling to uproot their lives and give in to the threat of terror that lies just beyond the horizon.

I am grateful that like the people of Sderot, today I did not give into my fear. I am thankful to have met them and to have laid my stone on the barrier wall. I will not forget the love they have for their communities and Israel, and all they do to protect one another from harm. I hope and pray that one day we can break down the barriers, remove the bomb shelters, and together find the path to peace.