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Alon Davidi, the mayor of Sderot, the community in southern Israel less than a kilometer from Gaza, which for years has been the favorite target of rocket attacks from Hamas and other Palestinian radical groups in Gaza, visited the Orthodox Union this week to thank the organization for the moral strength and programmatic initiatives it has supplied to Sderot – not just during this summer’s war – but throughout the many years that Sderot has been under attack.
These programs include clubs for children and Makom Balev, the Israeli version of NCSY, both of which have been brought to Sderot under the leadership of Rabbi Avi Berman, executive director of OU Israel, who introduced Mayor Davidi to his OU audience. The OU has also provided significant mental health counseling for children and adults alike. It was clear from the mayor’s comments that he and Rabbi Berman have a close working relationship.
“The real story of Sderot is that Sderot continues – it will not just survive,” the mayor declared. “You can come to Sderot in the middle of the summer [as two OU missions did] and you’ll see that we continued to live our lives as normal. We opened the schools and the markets. We must stand tall, not like a defeated people. We want not only the people in Israel, but Hamas, to know this.”
But the mayor acknowledged great difficulties living under continual rocket fire directed at civilians – men, women and children alike. The father of seven, Mayor Davidi told of children, including his own, crying through the night. “It’s very tough,” he said. “Hamas wants to destroy not only Sderot but all Israel.” A captain in the IDF, he expressed the community’s gratitude to Israel’s military for protecting the city. “We continually visited soldiers and gave them food, clothing, everything,” he declared.
How does Sderot survive emotionally? Mayor Davidi, a religious man, declared, “We are a city of emunah, of faith. Learning in yeshiva affects us all.”
Sderot is part of a “national challenge,” he said. “All of us,” meaning all of Israel, “need to share the responsibility for the children, for teenagers, the old people, for all of the community.” With the OU by its side, he knows and affirmed, Sderot does not stand alone.