While it may not be the number one topic of conversation on the government's agenda, Israeli bloggers and netizens just can't seem to stop talking about the situation in Sderot. Sderot is a small, low income community in the Western Negev Desert that has been the target of seven years of Qassam rockets from the nearby Gaza Strip.
Sderot serves as a case study for cyber-activism. Supporters seek to bring attention to the stories of real people beyond what the media has chosen to cover. Activists are creating blogs, videos, Facebook groups, and organizations to promote Sderot from a first person perspective.
Here are some of their efforts.
Yerushalmit has created this video, “Children of Sderot Just Want a Little Peace.” She says:
“This video [is] dedicated to the city of Sderot in Israel, expecialy to the children of Sderot who can't sleep in quiet.”
The Sderot Media Center, whose tagline is “The human face behind the news,” is using its YouTube Channel to portray life in Sderot today. This moving video provides a first hand look at the lives of children and their families.
And this video, entitled “Tzeva Adom” or “Color Red” after the sirens that sound before quassams strike, is about the efforts of art therapist Shahar Bar as she works with children, helping them to deal with and release their fear in a healthy manner. The video has been widely cited in the Israeli blogosphere.
The United Jewish Communities, the largest Jewish organization in the world, has just started a blog that gives an international outlet for the residents of Sderot and nearby communities to speak about life under fire. Ayana Neta, a 14 year old featured on Voices from Sderot, asserts:
“My name is Ayana Neta, and I am 14 years old. I live in Kibbutz Beeri, about 3 km from the border of Gaza Strip. Like Sderot I also live under rockets.
You probably don't even know it, but besides Sderot, there are more places that also get the rockets. One of them is Beeri. The first rocket that fell inside the kibbutz was 2 [meters] from one of my classmates in the kibbutz. But what I want to tell all of you is what it's like living under rockets, in my kibbutz…
Me and my friends have a tradition of hiking on Saturday. When people say not to go because it's dangerous, we say: “It's our country, and we will go anywhere we like to.” That is truly what I believe in. If we will give in to the rockets, and stop our lives because of it, well then, the Hamas (the people who fire the rockets) have won. If we will show them the crying children, they have won. If we will break down, THEY HAVE WON. But we won't. We will stay strong and won't break down, even when it gets really tough.”
Lior Tzur joins Ayana on Voices from Sderot. In an entry entitled, “The Influence of the Kassam on My Life,” he writes:
“Hello, my name is Lior Tzur, I am 15 years old and I live in Kibbutz Beeri. I want to tell you about the influence of the Kassam on my life.
The Kassam rocket is a primitive home-made rocket for short range produced by the Palestinian terror organization Hamas. Everyday the Kassam rockets are shot from Gaza to Sderot and the surrounding settlements.
In Kibbutz Beeri we also suffer from these rockets. When the “Red Color” alarm is heard, this is a sign for us that a Kassam has been fired and is going to fall. At this moment we must run to the nearest protected space…
My school is also in the area where the Kassams fall. All around the school there are concrete buildings to protect from the Kassams. When the “Red Color” alarm is heard, we need to run into these buildings in 20 seconds.
In spite of our fear and the danger, I think that we need to stay strong and not give up. If we surrender they will see that we are weak and vulnerable and keep firing rockets on us. We must have faith that this situation will soon be over and there will be peace between us, the Israelis and the Palestinian people.”
This Facebook group's profile image reads “This Could Be You”
But not all advocates of Sderot are for peace. A new Facebook group that identifies itself with the name Residents of Sderot Start to Shoot Qassams Back (תושבי שדרות תתחילו לירות קסאמים בחזרה) urges Sderot residents to start taking the Old Testament dictum of “an eye for an eye” literally. The group's introduction announces:
“Hey people! It cannot be so difficult: if those dimwits from the gaza strip can do it then so can you! Just trawl the Net for informationon how to build ballistic missiles from materials found in the home and let's go!
I'm sure the Gazans will get the message quickly.”
While the group has 275 members and counting, we can't assume that all who joined have done so in support. Many, like myself, are there to follow the group's actions and see what will come of it. Others have joined in order to comment and protest its premise.
Commenter Benji Davis is one objector:
“The situation in Sderot is terrible. But it doesn't warrant a facebook group like this. This is exactly what people use when they make their anti-Israel rhetoric. Is the answer really to launch rockets back at a civilian population? I think Am Yisrael is above this primitive act. i would really like the creator of this group to think about disbanding the group and encourage people to leave the group. If this was picked up by CNN or BBC, just as Jpost did, think about how bad such press would be for Israel.”
Taylor Norwitt contends:
“Bravo! If [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert won't let the IDF protect you, then protect yourselves. It's good to see there's still some Jews with balls.”
And commenter Michael Sone opines:
“Seems clear. If someone threatens to murder you, you are justified in in killing him first as an act of self-defence. The only issue is wether private citizens can assume the role of pre-emption that is traditionally reserved for the government? But what if the governmemt isn't doing an adequate job of protecting you?”
On the advent of this Facebook group, Molly of The Big Felafel writes:
“It might sound random but for many this group is a desperate last resort to end the barrage of kassams. I think it is time to admit that if we wait for the government’s response we will all be as bald as Olmert before there is any retaliation. Therefore it is left up to the citizens to end the rocket fire.”
Jameel of The Muqata gleefully adds:
I've espoused this position for a long time. Finally the residents of Israel and Sderot are shaking off their government induced aparthy, lethargy, and indifference.
First of all they are expanding their protests – and I doubt they will stop it, no matter how many of their protesters the police arrest this time.
But more importantly, they are talking about building and shooting their own rockets back at Gaza. If the High Court won't let the IDF take effective actions, and the government relies on the High Court to tie their hands to avoid taking the needed actions (one of their excuses at least), then they choose to take their defense and offense into their own hands.
(Someone just needs to provide them with better instructions.)”
“I’m not sure how I feel about the ’success’ this group is seeing, partly, I assume, thanks to the ‘Post story on today’s front page and on our website. I’m not sure its a good idea for Sderot people to make their own rockets and shoot them back at Gaza, and I don’t want to encourage it. But as you can see from the comments on the group, many people think its an idea whose time has come.”
Mizroch notes that the town of Sderot went wireless this January, allowing residents free, high quality internet access from anywhere in town. We are left wondering, “Even in the bomb shelters?”
To read more about Sderot on Global Voices Online, follow these links: