You walk towards your home. Perhaps you are coming home from work. Perhaps school.

You've lived here since the day you were born. This is where you grew up. Where you prayed. Where you fell in love and married. This is your community. This is your home.

As you walk home, you suddenly hear a siren. A siren you've learned to consider routine.



You don't think. You run.

You have twenty seconds.

Luckily, a shelter happens to be across the street. Within seconds you are there, surrounded by your community. Children are screaming. Women are crying. Men are crying.

You hear a whistling sound. A deafening explosion. The entire shelter shakes.

Slowly, people calm down. Slowly, people come out of their shelter. Slowly, they look around for the destruction. They try to forget what just happened. Until the next time.

Welcome to your life. A life between Eden and Hell.

Welcome to Sderot.

Sderot is a beautiful town located out of sight of the big cities and is only minutes away from the now Palestinian-controlled Gaza. Its growth was spurred by its first Jewish inhabitants, such as the parents of Avi Asido, a carpenter, who, "started from scratch, fighting for everything they had. Literally building the town and their livelihood."

In the nineties Sderot reached a renaissance, doubling in size as immigrants came in droves from the former Soviet Union.

The city of Sderot still reflects this history. It looks like most modern, progressive cities in Israel. According to the Chabad Rabbi, Zev Pizem, "Sderot is a wonderful, peaceful, quiet place."

In fact, a little too quiet. For a city so large, there aren't that many people around. The streets don't have as many cars as you might expect. You may begin to wonder what is going on.

A shelter in Sderot. Families have 20 seconds from when the siren sounds to when the rockets hit
A shelter in Sderot. Families have 20 seconds from when the siren sounds to when the rockets hit
For the last eight years, Kassam rockets have been fired from Gaza into Sderot. For eight years, Sderot has been receiving sustained attacks of, "Ten, twenty even forty Kasams a day", according to Rabbi Pizem.

Ten to forty times a day of, "CODE RED"

This gaily-painted tunnel in a playground is also a... bomb shelter
This gaily-painted tunnel in a playground is also a... bomb shelter

Ten to forty times a day of as Rabbi Pizem puts it, "Huge, terrible, extreme noise. So loud that your head explodes."

And with each attack, you hope that the rockets have missed your city, hope not to hear the stories that have become so familiar here. Stories like that of Avi's neighbor, "Ela, a 32 year old mother, who was killed by a Kasam... She died on the spot, right next to my carpentry business."

Or like the story Rabbi Pizem shared of the mother who had tried for years to conceive a child. A Kasam fell by them and, "The mother lost one leg, the child was killed."

And if you survive the attacks, but your house is destroyed, "There could be damage estimated at 300,000 Shekel, but the government comes and says we will only give you 120,000 Shekel," says Rabbi Pizem. There are many who are forced to leave simply for this reason.

Even in the moments where the rockets do not fall, the people of Sderot must constantly live with the scars that the Kasams have left.

As Avi says, "Everyone is afraid all the time."

Adults, children, entire families receive psychological and psychiatric attention. People suffer heart attacks.

He has "witnessed families who absolutely fell apart as a result of the situation."

Many have left. Many have left their families and livelihoods behind. The residents that have stayed rarely get to see their families, since the families are too scared to visit.

"Meanwhile," Avi says, "we go to sleep at night not knowing whether we get up in the morning."

And, yet, the majority of residents of Sderot have stayed. For eight years, ten to forty times a day, the people of Sderot and their children have stayed in this city.


Besides the physical beauty of Sderot, there is a palpable sense of a tight-knit love between the people here. They believe that, as the Rabbi puts it, "Sderot has something special. People have a sense of togetherness."

In addition, the people of Sderot believe that they are the first line of defense for Israel. When you live in Sderot, you are a soldier of Israel.

"Imagine if everyone left, what would have become of Sderot, and what is next? Ashkelon, Kiriat Gat and so on?" says Avi.

But there is something more happening here. Something deep that roots many of the people in Sderot.

That is the presence of G‑d.

Two years ago, Nati Engel was driving his jeep through Sderot when, according to his wife, "a Kasam fell and a very small piece of the rocket penetrated his stomach".

For two months he laid in a coma. The doctors thought he would not make it. They said his chances of surviving were incredibly low.

He went through seven hours of surgery.

When they were done, his wife received the news. He had survived.

Says Avi: "There were about 5,000 Kasams raining on us, can you imagine the tragedies and damage it could have caused? So many times people were miraculously spared - a woman who just left her kitchen, and a Kasam fell into it, a man leaving his car seconds before a Kasam fall on it, whole families spared in a matter of seconds."

Everyone seems to have a story to share. Some people talk about the time a Kassam landed in a Synagogue during a celebration, just when there happened to be no one in there. Everything in the room was destroyed. Except the holy books. And pictures of two rebbes.

Welcome to Sderot. Between Eden and Hell. Home of tragedies and miracles.

All that might change very soon. Since June 2007, there has been a delicate truce between Hamas and the government of Israel. Except for random rocket attacks, it was mostly honored.

Until now.

On November 4th, "Hamas fired approximately 45 rockets and dozens of mortar shells [at Sderot]," according to the Jerusalem Post.

And, for the first time in over a year, Israel responded to an attack from a Kassam. According to the same article, "The army said it identified a rocket launcher and fired in his direction... one person was killed."

At the moment of this writing, both sides claim that they are committed to maintaining the truce.

But one thing is clear. Sderot is at a crossroads. After some time of quiet, Sderot has become aware that it has always been in a state of war, even during the truce. Even when there is peace, they are waiting to be attacked. Even though G‑d watches over them, they feel the need to take action.

And yet, they are stuck. They are too busy trying to live that they simply cannot take action. They cannot move an inch; every resident in Sderot is living on a tightrope.

And this is why they are looking to the world for some help. This is why Sderot wants the Jews of the world to understand the world they live in. To remember the screams of the children in the shelter. The cries of the people.

Sderot wants the world to hear their story. To know the truth. They want the world to know what it means to live in Sderot. And they want Jews to understand what Sderot represents.

Welcome to Sderot. You're its newest citizen.