I wanted to do more than just send the occasional cake for Shabbat. The email caught my eye. It described the plan for people from all over Israel to meet near Kibbutz Yad Mordechai on erev Shabbat and travel in a car convoy to Sderot in order to conduct one’s food shopping and make other sundry purchases in this beleaguered development town. The objective was to provide both moral and material support.
On the surface Sderot seemed like any other small Israeli town. We did not see any destroyed or damaged buildings along the roads we traveled. The first hint that Sderot is an oft-besieged town was when we were instructed that we were to keep our car windows open so that we could hear the Red Alert in case of a kassam barrage.
As we approached the main shopping area, a man told us to go to a smaller shopping center because the main shopping center’s parking was full. That was good news. We, along with a few other cars from the convoy, found a small grocery store. As we were about to go into the store, someone told us that an error had been made and all of us were supposed to go to the main shopping center where a small solidarity rally was taking place. We decided to give this small business our patronage and go to the rally afterwards.
We had hoped that the grocery store would carry the Sderot baked challot that we had been ordering and picking up in the Gush Etzion community of Alon Shvut for a month or so. They did not have them, so we purchased Jerusalem baked Angel Bakery challot as well as an unmarked challah that we hoped was native to Sderot.
I engaged the cashier, Liz, in conversation. I asked her where she and the other people run to when kassams fly. She pointed to the shelter inside the store. She would like to leave Sderot, but her husband wants to stay.
By the time we had finished with our purchases at the grocery store and found our way to the main shopping area, the rally had ended. At a stand run by the Hesder Yeshiva of Sderot we picked up a map of the town’s stores which are marked by smiley faces. A young boy with dark payot, side curls, handed me a rose with a note attached. I started to explain that we are not from Sderot, and the man with him said that he knows that we are not from Sderot. He said that it expresses a thank you that we had come to show our solidarity. I handed the child a “popeye” (ices) that we had brought with us to give out to residents of Sderot.
While my husband made purchases in a hardware store, I stood outside in the oppressive heat and handed out ices to passersby. I approached three teenagers, who were not dressed like religious Jews, and handed them ices. During our brief encounter they mentioned to me that they utter a lot of prayers because of the current situation.
Another sign of the situation was the dearth of customers eating lunch at Burger Ranch. It seems that people come out to do their shopping, but then they usually go straight home in case more kassams are fired. Or possibly there were not a lot of customers, because eating out is a luxury that they can not afford. Many businesses are on the verge of closing.
After lunch we headed for the Hesder Yeshiva of Sderot, headed by Rabbi Dovid Fendel. The yeshiva is a shining light amidst the darkness. Their students help distribute food to some of the needy families. They help out in people’s homes. The students learn in chevrutot with local school children. There is a learning program with elderly men. The yeshiva is literally a backbone to the Sderot community. They recently moved from the Beit Midrash, which was located in a water tower, into a new and modest Beit Midrash, where we found some bochurim learning, even on a Friday afternoon which was an “out” Shabbat. My husband pointed out how the caravans were covered in Yerushalmi stone in order to, G-d willing, withstand kassam attacks. (Check out their website at www.sderot.org)
On our way out of Sderot we stopped to get gas. I still had some mostly frozen ices (a miracle) and I handed them out. I struck up a conversation with a resident who has lived in Sderot for all of his life. His elderly and handicapped mother refuses to move in with one of the children. When the Red Alert is sounded she can’t get to a safe place. She davens (prays) Tehillim. He thanked us for coming and even invited us to come over for lunch. I thanked him and told him that we had already had lunch and that we needed to get back home to continue our Shabbat preparations. We had the luxury of driving away from the kassam threat.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.