Traumatized Residents of Ravaged Sderot Struggle to Rebuild

Oct 19, 2023 10:57 am | Ticker, Virtual Jerusalem

Mangled automobiles line the war-torn streets of Sderot as the city enters its second week on the front lines of the ongoing war with Gaza (Credit: Peter Levin)

By Yona Erlich

An eerie silence envelops Sderot’s streets. A once bustling metropolitan hub, the city now resembles a war zone.

More than 370 rockets have been fired into Israel’s southern city of Sderot since the catastrophic events of October 7th. 72 directly hit houses and buildings. More than 40 people died. The bombardment does not cease. 

In the early hours of the morning, the city of Sderot, beating heart of the Gaza envelope region, was infiltrated by Hamas Terrorists.  The streets quickly turned red with blood as innocent civilians were massacred in their homes, cars, and in the streets. Women and children were among those butchered in the surprise unprovoked attack.   

Sderot, with a population of almost 37,000, is .the nearest city to Gaza, as little as 840 meters away, about half a mile. The border is so close that inhabitants only have fifteen to thirty seconds to take shelter once an air raid siren wails before the rocket hits.

Within 72 hours of the outbreak of hostilities, the Israel Defense Forces evacuated more than 13,000 residents of the 25 agricultural communities within four kilometers (2.5 miles) of the Strip, many of them devastated by massacres. 

Days later, the municipality was still coordinating the evacuation of remaining residents of the city, many left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Most relocated to lodgings away from the front lines. Around 7000 inhabitants chose to remain.

Among those who have remained in the city, despite the expected risks of the Israel Defense Forces’expected Gaza ground incursion, are residents who see their continued presence as a crucial reminder of what Israel must achieve. They hope and pray that the promises of politicians and security officials to restore security and quiet will be kept.

Mayor Alon Davidi and his team work tirelessly around the clock to save what is left of this battered but still beautiful city. “We, the residents here, will not give up and we won’t let our government and our army stop in the middle. Even if there is pressure from the world, we must root out evil. Hamas must be destroyed once and for all,” said Davidi.

“Hamas murdered over 50 people in Sderot on October 7. They must be eradicated,” Davidi demanded.  “Over the years, Sderot has become a symbol of resiliency and strength, despite living under constant threat, but we could never have imagined the level of imminent threat we are now facing.”

Despite the self-sufficiency of the city’s residents, help is needed urgently. Davidi explains: “Now more than ever, we need support to help our residents in their greatest time of need in our history.  Our teams of emergency and medical responders, social workers and volunteers are on the front lines to provide support for the city. But they are exhausted and overstretched, beyond capacity. We are in desperate need of immediate assistance.”

Rafi Abecassis sits in the remains of his bedroom, after his home was destroyed by Hamas rockets targeting Sderot (Credit: Rom Barnea)

Shmuel, a resident of Ashkelon who works with traumatized citizens in Sderot, explained that she and her family are not evacuating to relatively safer areas of the country. “There are a lot of people who feel like me, who say you’re not going to get me to leave my home, enough is enough,” Shmuel said.

“Where are we going to go? To Tel Aviv? The rockets reach there as well,” she lamented.

Sderot Resilience Center social workers continue to work with local children spread across the country to recover from trauma (Credit: Sderot Municipality) 

“Children here are so traumatized that their parents do not know how to console them. Many inhabitants have no home to go back to, no schools… even the police station was destroyed,” Shmuel explains. “The world needs to embrace his city and help its people rebuild their lives.”

“Once, if you went into your bomb shelter, you’d think you’d be okay,” she said. “But now you have to be worried about a terrorist with a machine gun. Bomb shelters are not built for that. The terrorists broke in and slaughtered the people inside.”

This week, the municipality of Sderot launched an official emergency campaign to raise funds for urgent assistance, safety, and recovery. “We call on our brothers and sisters around the world to open your hearts and donate to help us rebuild Sderot and take care of its people,” Davidi urged.

“Our inhabitants are the front line of Israel’s South. Salute them today. We will come out stronger.”