(WATCH) Bomb Shelter Capital

(Original airdate Jan. 16)

Conflict, sometimes violent conflict, has long plagued parts of the Mideast for centuries. But there’s one town in the south of Israel that is hit by rocket attacks so often, it has earned a dubious nickname. We sent our Scott Thuman to what’s known as the Bomb Shelter Capital of the World.

Sderot, Israel is a small, picturesque town of around 28,000, full of fountains, tree-lined streets, and manicured parks.

But it is hardly as peaceful as it appears. The names listed on display in the center of town are of the recently killed, and the hundreds of windowless cement structures, adorned with scenic murals, are bomb shelters.

All 286 of them.

They are on almost every street corner, near each bus stop, school, and business. Even the playgrounds double as a safe space, which is why Sderot is known as the bomb shelter capital of the world.

It seems almost everyone has some sort of video on their phones showing incoming rockets, accompanied by sirens and a mad dash to get to a shelter immediately.

Scott Thuman: So if the siren went off, if the alarm went off, you just leave everything and run?

Orel, Pizza Café Manager: Yes. You always have fear that something is going to explode. Even your house, or something near.

Scott Thuman: How often do you hear the sirens? The warnings?

Orel, Pizza Café Manager: Many times. Many times.

The barrage, coming from less than a mile away from the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory, ruled by the Iranian-supported terror group Hamas, and a launching point for thousands of rockets over the years targeting nearby Israelis in a decades-long war.

Scott Thuman: Just behind me here, you can see the boundary line where that fence is. Gaza is on one side. We’re about a hundred yards on the Israeli side. And that makes this entire area a top target for rocket fire from Hamas.

During our recent visit, the town was still mourning from the loss of 5-year-old Ido Avigal after rocket shrapnel penetrated his family’s safe room in their apartment.

Neighbor: You hear the rocket, boom, boom. I see the boy in my eyes, the blood, not understanding.

Efraim Rosenfeld tells us life here is measured in seconds.

Efraim Rosenfeld, Resilience Center Sderot: The siren goes off, and, if we are lucky, we have 15 seconds to get to shelter. And when you drive around with your children in the car you have to get them out of the seats and find a shelter. So, which child do you love more? Which child do you take out of the car? You have 15 seconds. 15 seconds is nothing actually.”

Scott Thuman: You can see reminders of the looming threat, really everywhere here in town, but perhaps nowhere more than here. This is just outside the local police station, where literally hundreds of used rocket shells sit that have been fired from Gaza into this area.

Many of those rockets brought down by the U.S.-backed Iron Dome missile defense system, though that does not stop the bloodshed. Nor retaliation by Israel, often via airstrikes that critics claim is disproportionate.

Nearly 6,000 Palestinians have died in conflicts with Israel since 2008, according to the United Nations, in contrast to less than 300 Israeli fatalities. Many of those Palestinian deaths happened in the West bank, where Full Measure spoke to a young barber shop owner in the city of Ramallah, where he shares his perspective.

Barber Shop Owner: I think both sides are wrong. But when you see Israeli on one side, kicking people out of their houses, not letting people in their own areas where they live, that’s not a solution. They both have to live in peace.

Until then, there are two options for the residents of Sderot: leave, or learn to cope.

Efraim Rosenfeld, Resilience Center Sderot: I could look years back, people would be ashamed to come to the resilience center. Today, no one’s ashamed.”

Efraim helps run an animal sanctuary designed to provide peace and comfort, offering therapy for a struggling population.

Efraim Rosenfeld, Resilience Center Sderot: “Children, they go around their house with their parents. They won’t leave their side, they won’t go to the second floor.”

And when the thousands of safe spaces in town still aren’t enough, Efraim begins his second job, transporting the dead.

It is, he says, just part of life, in the bomb shelter capital of the world.

For Full Measure, I’m Scott Thuman in Sderot, Israel.

Watch story here.

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1 thought on “(WATCH) Bomb Shelter Capital”

  1. There’s a relatively well known saying ” if the Arabs laid down their weapons there would be no more war, if the Israeli’s laid down there weapons there’d be no more Israel.” You can take it to the bank.

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