OU DELEGATION VISITING SDEROT EXPERIENCES TERROR FIRST-HAND, HIDING UNDER TABLE AS TWO KASSAMS HIT; ORGANIZATION HAS ESTABLISHED SDEROT EMERGENCY CAMPAIGN
A six-person Orthodox Union delegation which arrived in Sderot this afternoon to show solidarity with traumatized residents, experienced first-hand the terror of the Kassam rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza, when they were forced to run from a car they were entering into a store and to take cover under a table when a warning siren sounded and two rockets hit nearby.
“I was too frightened to be frightened,” declared OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, who together with his wife, Chavi, were part of the delegation. “We are going through an experience that is mind-boggling,” Rabbi Weinreb said on a conference call to OU leaders in the United States, made from the Cohen residence in Sderot, shortly after their terrifying experience. “We got to experience for a few hours what the people of Sderot are going through 24-hours a day,” he said.
“It’s really horrifying seeing part of Klal Yisrael (the Jewish community) sitting inside a city that is being bombarded,” Rabbi Weinreb reported. “We heard the impact of the missiles as they hit, then the sound of the fire engines racing to put out any blaze they may have caused."
Rabbi Weinreb added, “Don’t think this is a wasteland. Sderot is not the Warsaw Ghetto; it is a beautiful city. What makes it all the more surreal is to know that in this lovely place the code red will sound at any moment.”
The OU’s Seymour J. Abrams Jerusalem World Center maintains a variety of programs in Sderot, such as Makom Balev, a youth program which provides psychological support. According to Rabbi Avi Berman, Director-General of OU Israel, “We saw that we could best serve the community by bringing in programs to aid all residents – the schools, the traumatized children, the teenagers losing faith, and the parents trying to hold their families together.”
In today’s conference call, Rabbi Berman reported, “We only experienced two of the thousands of missiles that have fallen on Sderot. It is heart-breaking to see the situation here.” He described businesses being a standstill, stores closed, people who bought homes now without any income to make their mortgage payments.
Rabbi Weinreb added, “People feel abandoned. We were told that we are the first visitors in the past few weeks except for a government delegation and the press. We need to do as much as possible so the people of Sderot will not feel abandoned.”
He called for works of chessed (kindness) to ease the burden on the people and for an influx of people into Sderot. “We need to strengthen morale,” he said.
As part of that effort, the Orthodox Union has launched the OU Sderot Emergency Campaign. Contributions may be made online at www.ou.org, or sent to Sderot Emergency Campaign, Orthodox Union, 11 Broadway, New York, NY 10004.
In addition, the OU has called on its synagogues across North America to conduct a Sderot Shabbat next Saturday, June 9, to raise funds for a variety of projects that the OU will implement in Sderot for children and adults alike.