From Sderot, an Open Letter to Gunter Grass

Dear Mr. Grass,

In reaction to your recent poem, Israeli Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai has declared you persona non grata in Israel. While I can empathize with the feeling Yishai expressed by his action, he might also have considered it good for your education if you would visit Israel, and specifically the little town of Sderot, where I live and write. I will be delighted to show you around Sderot for some educational sightseeing. It might do you good. You worry about what Israel might do to Iran, but I will show you what Iran has done to Israel through her ally Hamas.

Our first stop will be a pleasant square in the middle of Sderot. A musical statue presides here. Behind the square stands an unusual structure: a huge, curving piece of concrete that stretches over a local school. A thousand years hence, this outlandish architecture will baffle archeologists excavating Sderot. No one will guess what function it might have fulfilled, unless written records of our time survive to explain this mystery. The curvaceous concrete is a huge bomb-shelter whose purpose is to prevent Hamas terrorists from killing the children who study in that school with the rockets they fire from across the border in the Gaza Strip. Iran, the country whose actions you equate to Israel's, financially and militarily helps those murderers.

Our next stop will be a hole that a kassam rocket made in a Sderot street. Sderot has many holes to choose from. The municipality customarily fills in the central hole the rocket's nose makes, so that people will be able to drive down that street, but they leave the smaller holes the shrapnel digs in the asphalt. Rockets landing in a public park or an open field generally just disappear after a few months. A home that gets a kassam through its roof is of course repaired. If shrapnel can dig such holes in asphalt, what does it do when it hits the face of a Sderot child?

I will take you, Mr. Grass, to one of the places where Hamas gave your Iranian friends a happy day. One of their rockets killed two Jewish children, immigrants from Ethiopia, who were playing together in a street. I know their family, but I doubt they would want to meet you. Another place we might visit is a courtyard where I spent an evening cleaning up the shards of broken windows that a kassam causes when it lands among buildings. I will show you where a child ran for cover when he heard the alarm, where the rocket detonated, and the shop to which this ten-year-old boy ran to call an ambulance after shrapnel hit him in his shoulder and his chest. He was lucky: he has and will have major problems using that arm. This is in contrast to our next stop, the child-victim struck here will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

During my research in Sderot I have interviewed many people whose lives Muslim terrorists have interrupted. Sderot's tormentors chose to celebrate Israel's withdrawal from Gaza by shooting at civilians in Israeli towns near the new border. My interviews here can be unpleasant to hear, although they also inspire by showing what the human spirit can endure. The people of Sderot continue to work and to live and build good lives for themselves and their families, although the rocket-scars they pass while walking down any street remind them of the danger under which they raise their children.

Some deal with the terror better than others: a little girl once wet her pants while her mother and I were discussing the effect the rockets had caused to her family.

Iran actively helps the Hamas radical Islamists, whose only regret about terrifying that little girl is that they did not kill her, her family, and all of her friends. The Iranian friends of Hamas are now working on bigger and better rockets that can carry the nuclear bombs Iran is developing. With these big rockets, the Iranians hope to achieve what the little rockets Hamas uses on Sderot cannot: the extermination of an entire people.

To counter this threat, Israel has purchased three nuclear-capable submarines from Germany, and is about to purchase three more. That a German company sells Israel the means to defend herself bothers you. However, your poem does not mention that other German firms have made huge fortunes selling Iran some of the equipment it uses to build its nuclear capability.