The prognosis is that the near-daily attacks from the Gaza Strip on the Western Negev region in Israel will only increase in lethal ferocity given confirmed news reports that Egypt has failed to block massive amounts of supplies of Hezbollah-type weaponry to be deployed in Gaza.
Sderot, a city of 20,000 situated in the Western Negev, has been under nearly constant rocket fire from the Arab-controlled Gaza Strip ever since the removal of Jews from that area in August last year.
The residents of this shell-shocked town are in dire need of a multitude of basic services. For example, a huge percentage of the population, especially the children, suffer from traumatic shock symptoms. The city needs a trauma center and a center for coordination of emergency social services. It has neither. There is inadequate funding for mental health professionals despite the documented needs, and little reassurance is forthcoming from the government. Residents and their advocates are shuffled from one department to another and there is little money available even if someone were to claim responsibility for the task.
Hundreds of rockets have landed in Sderot. Some rockets have landed on schools, some on homes, some in playgrounds and on the streets. Despite the constant threat of impending disaster, only 20 percent of the eight billion dollars of security budget that was approved for Sderot has been allocated. It is far from clear whether the rest of the funds will ever materialize.
What does it mean when eighty percent of the promised security funds disappear? While there are eighty shelters in Sderot, at least ten of them lack either water or electricity, and even the completed safe rooms remain locked.
Some Sderot schools have been fortified at government expense, but others have not, and even in some of the schools that have received attention, only some of their classrooms are deemed safe. A case in point: Two weeks ago, a group of third graders asked to return to their second grade class. Why? Because the second grade classroom is protected, and the third grade classroom is not. Who could tell them to choose otherwise?
It is evident that the Israeli government is currently unable to provide Sderot, just one city, with the essential resources required for the citizens to adequately cope with the ongoing violence.
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert appeared yesterday in Los Angeles at the annual convention of the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations from hundreds of Jewish communities throughout North America. Perhaps Prime Minister Olmert will appeal to private philanthropy to provide security funding for Sderot and its neighbors. If not, perhaps the American and Canadian supporters of Israel will dig down deep and provide what is needed to the Israeli cities under siege.
©The Bulletin 2006