July 22, 2007 / 7 Av 5767
An open letter from Scott Brockman, Campaign Outreach Director of the Jewish Federation
of Palm Beach County, Florida to the Jewish Agency of Israel
Today I perhaps had my most intense day since arriving in Israel a few weeks ago. Please excuse my simple prose below as I'm processing my day while I write this and I still have a four year old and a seven year old in the next room. This morning I met Ofer Baram, a Jewish Agency representative from the Ibim Friedman Student Village. The village is within Kassam range and is a two-minute drive north of Sderot. Our first stop together was to drive out of range to the outskirts of Beersheba where one of the summer camps run by the Jewish Agency was at a small airport used for crop dusters.
When we arrived a small group of youngsters were being treated to a ten-minute plane ride over the desert and Beersheba in a small four-seater plane. I spoke with many of the kids from Sderot there in my broken Hebrew before boarding one the "rides" with two ten year old girls who have never flown before. I could have taken video of the incredible view below but I was so enthralled by the faces on these two girls, who for ten minutes were transported to another place by the experience. Both did not speak until we landed and then only said "Magniv !" (Awesome).
From that experience it was onto Kibbutz Kfar Aza and the city of Netviot to see the actual summer camps set up by the Jewish Agency. One of the camps was being run by SPNI with funds provided by the Jewish Agency and the other in a school in Netviot by Rabbi David Farber with support from the Agency. I heard story after story from the Madrichim and kids about how tired they are and how each morning they get up its a good day if a Kassam doesn't land before they get on the buses early in the morning taking them all out of harms way.
Scott Brockman, Campaign Outreach Director of the Jewish Federation
of Palm Beach County, Florida (left) visits a Jewish Agency summer camp.
From the camps we went into Sderot itself. Ofer drove me to see the old community center that took a direct hit in May and then up into another neighborhood to see the new one just opened this summer. We went around a small traffic circle and then down a street not longer than a minute or two away and got out of the car outside the police station. It was just then when we heard the soft announcement "Tzeva Adom...Tzeva Adom (COLOR RED) in a women's voice. They changed from sounding jarring sirens in June as not to cause more stress with area residents and now the warning of an impending missile crash is precluded by a broadcast just as placid as "your door is ajar" announcement in a Honda.
It was seconds later, as we literally walked into the police station that the Kassam fell and thundered. I was standing at the call desk and not but 30 seconds later did they now exactly where this missile landed. It landed just up the road where we were minutes before. I was blissfully ignorant of this fact for the first few minutes because of the shouting and confusion in Hebrew and "police speak" in the entryway. I took out my video camera at this point and Ofer told me what had just happened. Even though he has been faced with a constant barrage of almost daily strikes this was close call for him. The Kassam hit a house that was owned by one of the founders of Sderot and four individuals were taken to the hospital for shock.. not any injuries, Thank God.
Life goes on and so did my itinerary. After looking at racks and racks of used Kassams housed in the back of the police station I met with Adi Azran who is the Teen and Youth activities coordinator for Sderot. It was here that the story came together for me. The Jewish Agency is doing a terrific job of serving the people and their needs, but they can only help with social services and relocation programs for children.
We should be proud of an organization like ours that does not forget about our people. Here on the ground, and especially after today, I can tell you that the Jewish Agency are real heroes around this country. We in Palm Beach are indeed an integral part of this moment in history. The Israelis I am meeting not only appreciate the funds we provide but that we have a real presence on the ground. We are making a real difference in the daily lives of not only the "most at risk" but people like us who just want to have a normal life.