Moved by the plight of residents of southern Israel as missile attacks escalated following the Gaza operation, I decided to take action. With the day off from work, I called two organizations in Sderot to offer my assistance.
I teach yoga in my community, and volunteered my services to shaken residents in hope that they could learn some relaxation techniques.
Both organizations quickly agreed that it would be helpful, but as I drove south, accompanied by my son and his two friends, both teenagers, they called to cancel.
The morale of Sderot residents was too low for new experiences, they feared. They hesitated to offer any new programs, and many people felt more comfortable in their own homes with the ongoing missile threat. However, “One Heart,” a community aid organization in Sderot told us there was plenty of cleaning and windows to board up if we wanted to volunteer.
So, together with my 16-year-old son Etan and the two 17-year-old girls, Sarena and Reut, I continued on the hour and fifteen minute drive from the center of the country to Sderot.
Lev Echad’s main office is in Jerusalem, and once every several days it sends a bus of volunteers from Jerusalem to Sderot. Today they were expecting fifty volunteers on the bus, and we planned to join them.
On the way down to Sderot we passed through several checkpoints and saw groups of Israeli soldiers with duffels boarding buses. The mood was somber — this was war. We noticed how quiet the roads were. Vehicles were coming up from the south, but few were going in our direction.
The two girls, Sarena and Reut, had been to Sderot before. As we entered the city they pointed out the bomb shelters that line the main road. I’m glad they did, because it reminded me that there was a new level of alertness I needed to have.
It was far from a ghost town — people were out walking, cars were driving — but as we drove into the center of town, we noticed that stores were closed. We were told to find the police station and to wait there for instructions. After several minutes of waiting, I decided to park the car so we could walk where we needed to go.