As the Israeli government ponders what exactly to do to stem the almost daily onslaught of Palestinian-fired Kassam rockets on the southern Israeli town of Sderot, a local Jewish synagogue and community center there has come up with a way to at least offer spiritual protection to the frightened residents.

Rabbi Moshe Ze'ev Pisem, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Sderot, hopes to bring a little physical protection as well in the form of a bullet-proof roaming synagogue.

According to Pisem, after seven years of terror from Palestinian rocket crews just kilometers away in the Gaza Strip, the men, women and children of Sderot will hardly walk out of doors anymore. The Chabad House, which used to host celebrations for life-cycle events, day camps and after-school activities, now only offers a children's gym for the town's youngest residents.

"People live in fear," related Pisem, who has lived in Sderot with his wife Sima for 20 years. "People don't send their children to activities, movies or parties. People just won't show up."

The children's gym, he added, is only popular because parents – memories fresh from schools, like one last week, falling victim to exploding rockets – escort their children to the two-story Chabad House and back, and hover over them the whole time.

When there is an attack, many residents scramble to the town's second Chabad House, situated in a bomb shelter near the market.

Borrowing from a successful Chabad-Lubavitch outreach tool known as the mitzvah mobile – at the encouragement of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, young rabbinical students in New York City first hit the streets with the outfitted vehicles in the early 1970s – Pisem now envisions a bullet-proof mitzvah tank. He recently began fundraising for the project.

He figures that it would essentially be a Chabad House on wheels that could canvas two or three neighborhoods a day, supplying a safe place for children to play games, watch videos and read books.

"It can't be a regular vehicle because the gas tank could explode if a Kassam hits nearby," he explained. "It would be an armored vehicle that would be strong enough not to explode if G‑d forbid a Kassam lands nearby."

Relief for the Needy

A Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi hands out a food package to a resident of Sderot.
A Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi hands out a food package to a resident of Sderot.
According to Pisem, the security situation has exacerbated the financial plight of families already in dire straits. Colel Chabad, a network of food banks and soup kitchens established in 1788 by the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, of righteous memory, has stepped in to provide needy families with monthly food deliveries and special holiday packages.

In addition, the organization sends a mobile dental unit twice a week to provide dental care at a reduced fee.

Turning back to the threat of rocket attacks, Pisem said that a group of scribes come from the central Israeli city of Lod each week to check residents' mezuzahs – a scroll containing the Shema and other biblical verses that's posted on a doorpost – for free. The rabbi explained that besides being biblically commanded, mezuzahs can offer spiritual protection to a home's occupants.

"This is something that really strengthens the security of the residents," said Pisem, "and it gives them a very good feeling to know that they have kosher mezuzahs on their doorposts."