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Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi

By BERNIE BELLAN
“Living in Sderot is 95% heaven and 5% hell.”
That is how Mayor Alon Davidi of Sderot characterized living in the Israeli city of Sderot to a small group of invited guests at a luncheon held in the board room of Taylor McCaffrey law offices on Thursday, February 28.

 

 

Davidi was the special guest of the Jewish National Fund during his visit to Winnipeg. The JNF has been involved in the construction of an animal assisted therapy centre in Sderot. Davidi said his talk was titled “What it’s like to thrive under pressure”.

For anyone not familiar with Sderot and where it is located, Davidi referred to a map of Israel during his 40-minute talk on Feb. 28. Sderot is situated only one kilometer from the Gaza Strip, which means that if a rocket is fired from areas close to the border with Israel, residents of Sderot have only 15 seconds to escape to a bomb shelter before that rocket could hit.

Mayor Davidi, who is 44 years old, and who moved to Sderot 21 years ago, noted  that he and his wife Nurit are the parents of seven children.  Although rocket fire from Gaza has subsided in recent years, especially since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, there have been occasional outbursts emanating from Gaza. The most serious flare-up occurred in the spring and summer of 2018, when not only rockets were fired, burning kites also became dangerous weapons employed by Hamas terrorists. Again, in November 2018 hundreds more rockets were launched at targets in Israel from Gaza.

The last time rockets actually landed in Sderot was in August 2018 when four people were injured.
Yet, despite the constant threat of attack from Gaza, Mayor Davidi said that Sderot has actually thrived as a community. He noted that the population is now over 28,000, having grown from 21,000 in 2010. Although there had been an exodus of residents when rockets first began to be fired during the second intifadeh in 2001, and that exodus continued until 2008 when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, with the introduction of the Iron Dome system in 2011, residents of Sderot have developed a much greater certainty that they will be protected from rocket fire. Since 2008 Sderot has continued to grow, with the construction of over 3,000 new apartments in the past five years, a sports complex, and a shopping mall.
However, the residual effects of years of bombardment by rockets launched from Gaza combined with the ever-present threat that a rocket might be coming at any second have taken their toll on many residents of Sderot, especially children.
For children suffering from post trauma, the symptoms can manifest themselves in different way, Davidi explained.
“They might cry without a reason.”
“They don’t want to sleep alone.”
“They’re afraid to go outside.”
“They’re afraid to leave their mother or father when they go to the park.”
“Many lock themselves inside a shelter for days at a time.”

Davidi noted that “even though it’s been quiet the last few years, trauma is climbing.” As a result Sderot established a very small animal assisted therapy centre, which can accommodate no more than 150 children during the course of a year.
“Children come to the centre and choose an animal,” Davidi explained. “It can be a dog, a rabbit, a snake (snake?).  There are six therapists on staff. A therapist works with a child and the child projects his fears on to the animal.”
Of his own seven children, Davidi said that three of them suffer from post trauma. Davidi’s youngest child, a daughter by the name of Emunah, who is five, is a classic case. The Davidis adopted a dog for her, which hardly ever leaves her side.
“When tseva adom (the warning siren that gives residents 15 seconds to find a shelter) sounds, Emunah takes the dog with her to the shelter. After 500 times hearing tseva adom the dog goes on his own,” Davidi told the audience with a smile.

With the advent of the Iron Dome anti-rocket system, however, residents of Sderot have found a greater sense of protection from those rockets. Iron Dome is designed to make an instantaneous calculation whether a rocket is on a trajectory to hit a residential area such as Sderot and, if so, it will be launched and destroy an incoming rocket.
Yet, last summer Hamas terrorists decided to launch multiple barrages of rockets at one time in order to attempt to counter Iron Dome’s effectiveness. “It costs Hamas only about $2,000 to build one of their rockets,” Davidi noted. Each Iron Dome missile costs in the neighbourhood of $100,000, he added. In November 2018 Iron Dome intercepted 100 rockets that were launched from Gaza.
With the demand for treatment at the animal therapy centre having far outstripped supply – both in terms of space and the number of therapists able to work in the very small space currently available, construction of a second animal therapy centre is about to begin. That centre, which will also be part of a new “resilience centre” intended for use not just by children, but adults as well, will be able to accommodate up to 500 children during the course of a year, Davidi said.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the new Animal Assisted Therapy Centre in Sderot is able to do so through the JNF. For more information contact Ariel Karabelnicoff at either 204-947-0207 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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