Purim in Sderot (Better Late than Never)

Is it too late to talk about Purim? Because of camera issues, I didn’t have my pictures till now but I don’t want to let it go by without at least a quick recap. (Usually when I preface an email with “in short”, I proceed to write a 75 page thesis but this will probably be quick. For some nice, emotional gobbledygook about Purim in Israel, see last year’s recap.)

(Two more quick things:
1) Gobbledygook is in Wikipedia and would you believe there’s more than just a sentence? YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO SCROLL DOWN TO READ IT ALL. WHO IS TAKING THE TIME TO ENTER THIS CONTENT???

2) Ech omrim “gobbledygook”?)

What does a cat on a tustus have to do with gobbledygook?
Nothing. So let’s move on.

Holidays rule in this country. Thursday night I went to a party at a bar thrown by the organization of birthright alumni. I am the first to brag about my history of great costumes. This year did not add to the list. I am playing the “I was busy” card; only a couple of days before Erev Purim, I started to brainstorm. Sadly, those around me didn’t share my vision. I was discouraged into saving “slutty separation fence” for another year.

At the 11th hour, I was running around Dizengoff Center begging the cashier at Home Center to lend me her red overall uniform to no avail. I couldn’t find a Pizza Meter nearby to get one of their delivery uniforms and my El Al flight attendant friend didn’t get back to me. Sigh, here we go.

One sheet of construction paper…check.
One cardboard box out of a dumpster…check.

And voila!

Hamantaschen Post-Iran.

Don’t worry, nobody at the party got it either.

Five corners? Nuclear radiation? Never mind. Perhaps “nuclear Hamantaschen” or “Dimona Hamantaschen” would have made more sense….or maybe not. Hey, you take chances…they can’t all be winners. I WILL NOT DUMB DOWN MY COSTUMES FOR THE MASSES!!!

(Ok, I’m over it.)

Friday morning, rather than go to any of the big outdoor festivals, I did something much more important to me: drive to Sderot. I’ve wanted to go for a couple of months and was never able to make it happen. If you don’t know what Sderot is, I don’t know where to tell you to begin. Here are a few links.

Before things quieted down a little following the incursion into Gaza, people in this country were just so angry and fed up with the situation there and the government’s failure to do anything. It’s strange for me to be here while it’s happening. During the last intifada and especially while recruiting for Young Judaea Israel Programs, I was so frustrated by the way the vast majority of the American Jewish community just completely stopped visiting. I feel like those Israelis who have channeled their emotions into an actual visit are few and far between. I was fortunate enough to be able to come on a Federation solidarity mission in 2003 and there was no way I wasn’t going to get to Sderot at some point.

So Friday morning, I awoke at 7 AM to drive with my friend Tal. On the way to meet him, I picked up a couple of oznei Haman (Hamantaschen) to give him as mishloach manot. According to a wise, Jewish man I know (let’s call him The Internet), there are four mitzvot to fulfill during Purim.

1) Hearing the Megillah
2) Giving to the poor
3) Giving mishloach manot
4) Listening to Milli Vanilli’s “Girl You Know It’s True”

Just making sure you’re paying attention. #4 is eat at a seuda (festive meal).

I was hoping to do all four this year until I was told that, “Sorry, moron, the Megillah’s only on Thursday night.” Who can keep track with Shushan Purim and Purim Meshulash? (By the way, if you didn’t get it, I am the moron.)

Fine, so shopping in Sderot was my version of giving to the poor (or in this case, needy) and I planned to have some friends over for dinner Friday night. As Meat Loaf said, “three out of four ain’t bad.” Or something.

Tal and I got to Sderot around an hour after leaving Tel Aviv. At first, I thought, “Man, the streets are empty! It’s a ghost town…how sad!” before realizing that I was in a small town at 9 AM on a Friday morning. I’m pretty sure that had nothing to do with falling rockets. This wasn’t exactly Gotham City. We parked the car and started walking around the small city center.

The first people we approached were two kids selling newspapers on the street. “Yediot Achronot! Chamesh shekel!” I gave the first kid ten and told him to keep the change. A few feet away, different paper, same situation. Didn’t matter that I probably wouldn’t read 100 Hebrew words. I was there to show my support and help the sagging economy. How to show your support besides spending money? Strike up a conversation with a local. I ask the first kid, “So what’s it like living here?” He replies, “I live in Beersheva.”

What the…??? HEY, I WANT MY TEN SHEKELS BACK!!! Punk.

We continued down the block and came across a group of yeshiva boys dancing in the streets for the chag. That was nice. It was uplifting to see some happiness there after what they’ve been through. At some point while discussing the amounts of money we were going to spend that day, one of us said, “Hey! What are we doing in Tel Aviv? We should come here and pose as locals! We’ll make a fortune!”

A resident of Sderot who was nice enough to drive me around town.
Any resemblance to a middle-class Long Island native is strictly a coincidence.

Then the shopping commenced. We bought a few things at a hardware store, a food store, and somehow resisted the urge to buy ars-y jeans (the dangling zipper-chains attached to the back pockets made it easy).

Next stop: cafe for breakfast. Two things to say about this:
1) The waitress’s costume was really cute.

“Rak lo tseva adom!” Just not the color red. “Tseva adom” is the name of the alarm that sounds when a rocket is about to hit. Her shirt had stickers of all different colors…except for red. I loved it. Great.

2) The waitress spilled coffee all over me. Aleph, it wasn’t hot, and bet, I thought, “I’m gonna come to Sderot and complain about coffee??? Not a chance.” I just smiled.

See, folks, Sderot really is dangerous.

Last stop, supermarket. I spent a bunch of cash there and, not surprisingly, I’ve already let some of the vegetables go bad….what else is new?

After about three-and-a-half hours, we headed home. On the way out, we passed one of the protective bus stops.

A closer look revealed the sign’s donors…

How about that, my friends in Atlanta? See where your dollars go? For those of you American Jews who give on Super Sunday, kol hakavod (loose translation=”good job”). Those who don’t, I hope you’ll consider. (Ok, I just went to the Atlanta Federation’s website and see that this identical picture already resides there. So much for me winning the Pulitzer.)

So how was it? Quiet. Normal. No sirens. Just another day in Sderot. (Wasn’t that a Jon Secada song? 1992 in the house!)
I’m so glad I went. It’s important to support Israel these days and the people of Sderot need it. So whether it’s visiting, giving money, sending care packages to the kids who are surely going to have issues to deal with as they get older, writing a letter to an American senator, or whatever…I hope everyone does something.
Better late than never….chag sameach.
(Did I say “quick”? I meant “meaningful”.)Live in Jerusalem and looking to help? This just in:

Fair for Vendors from Sderot and the Gaza Periphery, April 11th, 10:30- 15:00The situation in Sderot and the Gaza periphery is difficult, and has taken its toll on all of the area’s residents professionally, personally, and financially. Looking for a way to get involved without making the long drive?

Come do your pre-Pesach shopping at The Merkaz and support businesses from Sderot and the surrounding areas. The atmosphere will be festive, with fun gypsy music and stands with vendors of all sorts.

The entrance fee is only 10 shekels, free for children, to cover costs.
Please come out in support of these great business owners. For more information, contact Deena at 02-561-9165 *203 or at deena@themerkaz.org

Entrance to The Merkaz is at 7A Dor Dor VeDorshav, to Mozeon Hateva on Hamagid Street.

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