Larissa Yaakobov stands before me sobbing. Her young daughter and nine-year-old son look on helpless. ”I can’t do it anymore,” she says in broken Hebrew, “I can’t live here.” ”Here” is Sderot, an Israeli border community adjacent to the Gaza Strip where Larissa has lived since she emigrated from Russia fifteen years ago. Larissa ‘s son does not say a word. He hasn’t said much, she tells me, since the two watched a Qassam rocket slam into a woman a few feet away killing her instantly.
Less than twenty four hours before Israel unleashed its air-force on the Gaza Strip, I sat with four families in Sderot who have been injured and traumatized by Hamas rocket fire. In the hours before Israel ‘s incursion, the mood was tense-even by Sderot standards. The streets were barren; everyone is bracing for new waves of rockets.
Sderot has no shortage of children’s playgrounds-twisty blue and yellow slides, swings and handle-bars. But children are no where to be seen. I do see plenty of bomb shelters. Every bus-stop in Sderot has been turned into a lime-colored enforced shelter with a single shrapnel-proof window. I enter one of these rooms to see what it is like inside. A car screeches to a halt and the driver dashes out to join me in the shelter. He is panicked and out of breath. Seeing me enter the shelter, he mistakenly thought a rocket was headed our way. I apologize sheepishly for the confusion as he returns to his car and speeds away.
To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive by David Keyes click here.