One of the most important aspects of our coalition’s work is to help the hardest-hit municipalities in the heart of Israel coordinate a vast array of emergency responses and services. Through our Stop the Sirens campaign, we have funded 13 of these cities on the front lines.
Today we share with you two stories from our #LivingIt series that spotlight life in Sderot, where JFNA’s partners have had a profound impact. Located less than a mile from Gaza, Sderot has been in the line of fire for 13 years, prompting The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Amigour housing subsidiary to build thousands of safe rooms—enough for each person in the city. Many of Sderot’s estimated 24,000 residents have roots in North Africa and the former Soviet Union, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee runs a number of programs there to assist new immigrants and other vulnerable populations.
In the past two weeks, I have visited Sderot several times, and I am heading back next week on JFNA’s third solidarity mission. I have seen the devastating emotional and physical effects of thousands of sirens and over 2,000 rocket hits since 2001. A study estimates that 28 percent of adults in the city have post-traumatic stress disorder, and up to 94 percent of children show symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Today’s #LivingIt stories reflect that toll, but also depict the strong family and community bonds that can grow from adversity—and that keep Sderot resilient.
President and CEO, The Jewish Federations of North America
#LivingIt: Teens Get Personal
Shlomo Azulay has spent a lifetime on the lookout for rockets. Growing up in Sderot, his childhood memories are punctuated by the wail of sirens and bookended by the concrete walls of bomb shelters. The 17-year-old knows how to cope with the stress, anxiety and fear that come with constant bombardment.
So during Operation Protective Edge, Shlomo and his friends from Turning Point, a JDC-supported program for at-risk youth, decided to support other teens now living under fire. Turning Point equips participants with leadership and entrepreneurial skills for the job market—skills that have also proven valuable during tense times like these.
In Beer Sheva, Shlomo’s group shared their survival skills with other teens and established a network of solidarity that now reaches between the two cities.
To Shlomo, these person-to-person connections also strengthen Israel as a whole. “We can only empower our forces in the field if civilians are strong and united,” he says. “That's our contribution to the effort."
#LivingIt: A Safe Space for Family
The apartment in Sderot is too small for Eden and Lior Lusky and their two young children, Liam and Shimon. But it’s home, a secure home, with a fortified safe room built by Amigour, a housing subsidiary of The Jewish Agency of Israel.
Because Lior works long hours, Eden stays at home with Liam and Shimon. She’s afraid to let them out of her sight. The three of them sleep in the tiny safe room together while Lior—who can wake up quickly and move faster if a siren sounds—sleeps on the couch.
Early on in the conflict, a siren sounded in the middle of the night. Lior woke up, leapt off the couch and ran into the safe room right before a rocket hit the wall behind where he slept, destroying much of their home.
The Luskys relocated for nearly two weeks while Amigour renovated and restored their apartment. They are now thankfully back home. While the fear of another rocket hit hangs over their heads, they know they have a safe space.