Jan 192010
Authors: Kelley Bruce Robinson

“We were being bombed,” my mom said. “The military was handing out bomb jackets, but not enough for everyone. You and I, mother and son, were sharing a jacket. They told us that when more bombs went off, we were to run uphill and disperse ourselves. They wanted us to separate because it would be more difficult to kill us all.”

My gut reaction at this part of my mother’s recounted dream was clear: “I wouldn’t separate from you.”

“Well, right after they told us to separate, you and I looked at each other, and we both knew,” she said. “I asked you, ‘Do you want to run separate or run together?’ And you told me ‘I don’t care what they say; of course we’re running together. We always have.’”

I had just returned from a student journalism seminar in Israel over winter break, so a number of realities, including a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip that landed eight miles away from my group on New Years Eve, could have sparked her unconscious night terror.

The irony of her dream hid in the details.

The day of New Year’s Eve we were in Sderot, about half a mile from the overpopulated Gaza Strip and the hotbed of Palestinian terrorism.

More than 8,600 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, and Sderot had taken the brunt of many attacks over the last eight years.

The streets were quiet, and the playground was empty. A large, brightly painted caterpillar structure snaked to the side of one jungle gym. We later learned it was a bomb shelter, there for children and their parents should a Code Red alarm sound in the midst of their play.

Residents in Sderot have 15 seconds to get inside a bomb shelter once a Code Red alarm begins.

“There’s a red alert and (my friend) has her baby in the car. She stops the car, opens the door, goes to the babies side, unbuckles the baby’s seat and only then can she go find a shelter,” longtime resident and mother Chen Abrahams said. “If you have two children, what do you do? Which child do you take? This is the devil’s decision.”

Does a mother separate from her child, for her own sake or the sake of a sibling? Should she run for the bomb shelter and hope a rocket misses her car and spares her child? And if it happens again, does she switch which child she carries for the sake of an equal chance at life?

Our group was on edge. A car backfired on the street and everyone jumped.

“Imagine living in this situation for nine years, or five years or even five days,” Abrahams said.

Behind Sderot’s police station, hundreds of rockets line the walls, varying in sizes but all bearing the signs of impact and explosion. Seeing them piled on each other was like seeing a smoking gun at a crime scene, only amplified. Each of these Qassam rockets once had the potential to kill. Many of them did.

Security officer Kobi Harush, having seen the rockets’ power firsthand, could not find the words to explain what happens once they land. Many of the rockets hold bits of razor sharp metal, nails and bolts that sear through the air on impact.

“It’s too horrific to describe what it does to a human body,” he said. “Just as you are standing here good and well, suddenly, there can be a alert and a rocket will fall.”

As terrorist rocket technology improves, cities even further from Gaza will soon be living in fear of Qassams lighting up their own evening skies.

“The next operation is probably going to fall in Tel Aviv,” the second-largest Israeli city that has been long guarded from violence and where citizens feel safe, Harush said.

More mothers will begin making impossible decisions. More alarms. More running aimlessly, in search of a bomb shelter that might not be around the corner. More deaths.

“You see a lot of things in the media, but one thing you don’t see is what happens here to each one of us,” Abrahams said. “Everybody gets hurt. We call them the invisible wounds.”

Abrahams has only one child. My mother has two. Had her dream been an Israeli reality that included my brother, which one would she be forced to choose? Who would she run to the shelter with?

“To choose which kid a mother takes and which one she leaves,” Harush said. “That decision, it’s not human.”

Kelley Bruce Robinson is a sophomore journalism and technical communication major. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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