A Day in the Life of Sderot

Opinion

By Julia Chaitin

Published May 22, 2008, issue of May 30, 2008.
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On Friday evening, before it got dark, Jimmy Kdoshim, a 48-year-old man, was killed by a Qassam rocket at his home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, while working in his garden. Looking at the pictures of his house that was broadcast on the evening news, I could see that except for the myriad of holes left by the Qassam, it was quite lovely.

On Saturday afternoon, a Qassam hit the Sapir high school and college campus. Thankfully no one was there; it was Shabbat. One of the high school classrooms took a direct hit, just a few doors down from the office where we professors and students all go to get photocopies for our classes. It was also a few doors down from where I taught my “Academic Preparation Course” the next day, Sunday.

Instead of driving as I usually do to get to Sapir, via Kfar Aza — 15 minutes away from my kibbutz, when driving a bit too fast — I decided to go the long way around, via Gilat Junction. The truth: I was too scared to drive near Jimmy’s garden.

On Sunday afternoon, a Qassam again hit Sapir College, this time blasting out windows in building No. 10. This new building, which hasn’t yet quite been completed but is being used, has three floors of classrooms and offices and a cafeteria with good sandwiches, salads and coffee. It’s where my office is located.

I left the campus at 1:15pm because I had a meeting in Beersheva; the rocket hit at about 3:30. The news broadcasts in the evening showed footage of professor Ze’ev Tzachor inspecting the hit. It was then that I recognized that he was standing right next to my building.

Monday evening, while sitting in a faculty meeting at Sapir, our administrator got a text message that another person had been killed by a Qassam. It turned out to be Shuli Katz, a 70-year-old nurse from Kibbutz Gvaram. She was killed at Moshav Yeshe, when she went to visit a friend, who was scared to come visit her, due to the rocket fire along the road to her kibbutz.

Shuli’s son had gone to see if they had reached the right house, when his mother was hit by the Qassam. When he spoke to news reporters the next day, he could barely look into the camera as he talked about his guilt for leaving his mother alone for that minute, not knowing that when he turned around to fetch her, he wouldn’t be able to tell her that they were in the right place.

Wednesday evening another rocket, either a Grad or a Katyusha, hit a children’s health clinic in a busy shopping mall in the middle of Ashkelon. One of the injured was a 2-year old toddler who surely did not know what a Grad was. Perhaps she does now.

On Friday, Jimmy was watering his plants.

On Sunday, I was grading papers and drinking my cappuccino.

On Monday, Shuli was going to have tea.

On Wednesday evening, children were waiting for their doctors to treat their sore throats.

We all just want to weed our gardens, and help students learn how to use electronic databases, and to have coffee and cake with a friend, and to get lozenges and be assured that our throat will stop hurting soon.

On Sunday evening, I received emails from my students. My second-year students, Rivi and Reut and Tamar, decided not to come to school on Monday, because of the “situation.” They had just arrived back to the campus from a one-day study trip to Bedouin communities in the Negev when the rocket hit next to where the bus dropped them off.

Ilena and Ortal and Daphna were also too afraid to come. They asked, “Can we turn in our second papers on Tuesday, instead of Monday?”

On Monday, when I went back to Sapir to teach qualitative research to my students, I really wished it was a day that I taught in Beersheva instead. I certainly did not want to go into my office.

But, of course, I did go to Sapir, and I did go into building No. 10. I couldn’t help but gape and shake my head, along with everyone else standing there, looking at where the Qassam had hit, looking at the damage that had been done to the building, thinking, “What if…?”

The woman who cleans our offices took me by the hand to show me the office next to mine.

“The whole window was blown out,” she told me. “Such a mess. It took me a long time to clean up everything, but there’s still glass that I can’t touch.”

I answer the emails and tell Ilena and Ortal and Dafna and Rivi and Reut and Tamar, “Yes, that’s okay if you don’t want to come in for class on Monday. You can put your papers into box No. 23 in building 7 on Tuesday.”

Building No. 7 is next to the parking lot where Roni Yehye was killed by a Qassam on February 27; he had tried to look for cover under a tree. About a week after he was killed, a shelter was put up.

A bit too late for Roni, but perhaps it will be useful for us in the future.

Julia Chaitin, a social psychologist, is a senior lecturer in Sapir College’s department of social work.


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