The phrase “Red Dawn” may sound like a good name for a modern rock band, but in the town of Sderot located just outside of the northern Gaza Strip,it means something entirely different. When the Red Dawn alarm goes off in Sderot as it did twice yesterday, June 16, every soul in the town of starts a twenty-second countdownthe amount of time they have to find some kind of shelter, because a deadly rocket is about to fall right on top of them.
Twenty seconds may not sound like a lot of time, and indeed it isn’t at all, considering the fact that twenty centimeters of concrete won’t be enough to save you. Only if you are lucky enough to be within a sprint’s distance of the newly built shelters, then when the Red Dawn shines through, there is thankfully somewhere to run to. Otherwise, all Red Dawn can tell you to do is hold your breath and hope.
But “Red Dawn” is not the only thing that means something different to the people of this town. Almost anywhere else in the Jewish world, the number 5,752 means 1992 CE, recalling memories of 13 years ago. But in Sderot 5,752 is the number of rocketsQassams and mortar roundsthat have fallen on them and their neighbors in the Gaza Strip since September 2000.
Luckily, most of that number have resulted either in nothing, or at worst, property damage. But rockets can also kill, and in the case of Ms. Ayala AbuKasis, it did. When the Red Dawn alarm went off that day, she simply ran. The rocket exploded behind her, causing a piece of shrapnel to pierce her skull and hit her brain stem. She died a few days later.
Her death brought a massive response from the Israel Defense Forces, including personal attention from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. This, combined with the continuous IDF presence in the Gaza Strip, had the effect of stopping the rockets for a few months. But all that is now overshadowed by Sharon’s immanent Disengagement plan set to take place this August.
With the withdrawal plan comes the abandonment of the Gaza Strip by the IDF, which translates into a potentially unhindered barrage of rockets raining down from the Arab town of Beit Hanun, with no internal military threat to stop them. With no IDF in the Strip, the future of Sderot looks to be filled with the call of the Red Dawn.
As for Jews within the Gaza Strip itself, many have ignored the withdrawal plan, doing nothing to prepare for relocation even as it looms ever closer, with less than two months until it is carried out. Such is the case with Dr. Michael Gold, a thirteen-year resident of Neve Dekalim, the biggest Jewish Settlement in Gaza with over 600 families. 5,752 means the same to him as it does to the people of Sderot, and yet the rockets have one death in all of Neve Dekalim. This is why, said Gold, he has made no preparations to leave. He believes that if God has protected the town thus far, He will not let it be evacuated.
Of course, if the plan does go through, Gold will have no choice. And yet, for all the pain leaving his home will cause him, there are other factors still to be considered besides losing one’s home.
Iris Chimo, also a resident of Neve Dekalim, brought up another painful factor rarely mentioned or even considered by the mainstream media. Her little boy was killed in a car accident three years ago, and is buried in the local cemetery. What will happen to his remains if the plan goes through is an open question. “They are robbing me of my memories [with my son],” she said of the Sharon government, as she will be forced to leave her son’s hometown and resting place.
The withdrawal will affect both the dead and the living in Katif and in Sderot, but it may also directly affect the surrounding environs that have not even seen but one Qassam fall on them these past five years. In that category is the city of Ashkelon, whose main power plant is located just above the Gaza Strip, literally a stone’s throw away from the town of Elei Sinai, also slated for evacuation this August.
Elei Sinai, a town built in place of, named for, and founded by the former mayor of the evacuated Sinai settlement of Yamit in 1982, Avi Farhan, will be evacuated once again by the very man who suggested it be built in the first place -Ariel Sharon. From the window of Farhan’s living room one can clearly see the tall smokestack belonging to the Ashkelon power plant.
And the call of the Red Dawn at a power plant may cause more than just property damage.