Sderot residents staying in Eilat’s Magic Sunrise and Holiday Inn Express hotels to escape the incessant Qassam attacks on the western Negev town are reveling in the calm atmosphere.
“It’s nice to wake up without fearing the ‘Color Red’ alert system,” one resident said.
However, those working in the Wisconsin Plan project, which is aimed at training "chronically unemployed" people in a bid to help them integrate into the job market, will have to return to Sderot as early as Sunday.
Sharon and Shalom Asayag arrived in Eilat with their four-year-old daughter Hodaya.
“We had a quiet night and enjoyed ourselves, but we won’t be able to stay here for the entire week,” Sharon, a Wisconsin Plan employee, says.
“The Qassams do not interest my employers,” she says. “You have to get to work on time or lose your salary. Our neighbor, a 57-year-old woman, was killed on her way to her job with the Wisconsin Plan.”
Shalom adds: “Last Thursday the municipality asked that residents remain indoors, but the Wisconsin Plan officials forced my wife to go to work.”
Shir, 15, also of Sderot, says as she was standing in line at the breakfast buffet, “Only one day has passed but it seems as though the Qassams are light years away.”
'This is not what we were promised'
Yaara Cohen, who fled to Eilat with her two-year-old daughter, says, “In Sderot we don’t do anything all day, so here we plan to go out and have some fun.”
However, some Sderot residents complained of not being put up in a 5-star hotel.
“Why were we sent to a hostel when others were sent to 5-star hotels? Asked a Sderot resident who made his way to Eilat during the night along with his wife and three children.
“There was commotion in the lobby until 4 a.m.,” he said. “Some wanted to return to Sderot rather than stay in a hotel that does not respect itself. This is not what we were promised; I wouldn’t stay here for free. As we speak people are boarding Egged buses to head back to Sderot, but I’m staying because I don’t want to disappoint the kids.”
Business mogul Arcadi Gaydamak sponsored the travel and accommodation expenses of 300 Sderot youths who arrived in Eilat, this in addition to the 1,920 who also made the trip to Israel’s southernmost city.
Gaydamak’s associates said the criticism only encourages him to continue helping Sdeort residents flee the Qassam attacks.
Batya Mattar, head of the Sderot Parents’ Union, said she was ‘stunned’ by the efficiency in which Gaydamak’s people operate.
“They work so fast, with no bureaucracy,” she said.
Next week the defense ministry and the Jewish Agency are expected to fund the transfer of additional groups of Sderot teens to other parts of the country.
Shmulik Hadad contributed to the report
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