Sderot tries to show the world
its side of the conflict.
Special to the Jewish News
early three years ago, Noam Bedein was forced
to flee his Sderot synagogue in the middle of a
Shabbat service when the dreaded tzevah adorn
(red alert) siren bellowed a warning.
An incoming Kassam rocket was rapidly on its way,
approaching the Western Negev city from the Gaza Strip.
Within 15 seconds, a huge explosion ripped an area no more
than 50 meters from the synagogue.
"There really wasn't much you could do at the time besides
pray' Bedein recalled. "When the rocket hit, everyone that
was covering for safety jumped up, grabbed their children
and rushed outside to see if their own home had been hit.
This was a normal way of life for us and that particular
moment was a very emotional and life-changing experience
Bedein knew at that time he needed to act for the people
of Sderot. And act he did.
Bedein founded the Sderot Media Center, a nonprofit out-
reach center designed to present the Israeli perspective of a
community living in constant threat and terror of Kassam
rockets launched from Gaza.
Starting as a grassroots movement with nothing more
than a borrowed laptop, the Sderot Media Center outsources
information and personal stories of the citizens of Sderot and
the Western Negev to media outlets, diplomats and students
from inside Israel and around the world.
"We're trying to present this side of the conflict, the stories
of what it is like to live in a rocket reality like no other place
in the world and we're doing it from the source, which is very
important' Bedein said. "The media coverage from around
the world is not balanced in this part of the region and we
are trying to counter that dis-balance of information and the
What proves so challenging for Bedein and the six other
employees of the organization is, in fact, that counter-balanc-
There is a massive discrepancy of destruction between
Sderot and Gaza, along with the disproportionate death tolls.
The SMC is also going up against millions of dollars in media
campaigns by Hamas in Gaza, which use the ruins to add
fuel to their media campaign. The Sderot community takes
priority in rebuilding the Kassam devastation.
However, through testimonials, documentaries, short
stories and hard evidence, the SMC continues to make the
citizens of Sderot heard.
Student groups make up half the visitors to the SMC. Other
visitors are mostly foreign press, diplomats from abroad and
Bedein has traveled to Europe and Washington, even pre-
senting the U.N.'s Goldstone Committee with an unofficial
Israeli perspective of material and video footage of the rocket
reality in Sderot during its investigation of the conflict.
February 4 2010
A boy holds shrapnel from a rocket that just
missed a kindergarten.
"It's very easy for the Palestinians in Gaza to gain
sympathy picture-wise because of the severe devastation
from Operation Cast Lead': Bedein said. "On the other hand,
over here,you have such a huge psychological impact and
trauma these rockets and constant sirens have created on the
people, in addition to injuring over 1,000 in the process.
"There have been 12,000 rockets in the past nine years and
8,000 since Israel's disengagement from Gaza in 2005. This
has an enormous impact and what we are trying to do is
express and present this psychological impact through differ-
ent media outlets. We just want to be heard:'
Another aspect of the Sderot Media Center is a creative
approach to help deal with the trauma. A few months ago,
the SMC helped 40 teenage girls from two high schools in
Sderot go through drama sessions, along with therapy from
psychologists and social workers, to teach the girls how to
express themselves about growing up amid the threat.
Coined the Community Treatment Theatre, the perfor-
mance had its first event outside of Sderot when the girls
traveled to Merkaz Hamagshimim Hadassah in Jerusalem
"It's no doubt that the youth have been most affected by
the rockets, actually being raised and going through their
Top: The morning after, a Sderot woman passes a
damaged building on the way to the store.
Middle: The Sderot Media Center shows diplomats
a damaged home.
Bottom: A house damaged by a Kassam rocket.
childhood in this rocket reality without knowing any other:'
Bedein said. An estimated 70-94 percent of Sderofs children
have post traumatic stress disorder.
The SMC is proud that it receives no funding from the
Israeli government, but is facing a financial crisis. "The next
month is very crucial for us',' Bedein said."We're going to
have to decide if we can keep the center open or not; it is just
too much financial pressure to shoulder. The British ambas-
sador who recently visited us has written to the European
Union about all the money going to rebuild Gaza, but what
about the Western Negev? What about us?" ❑
Jake Sharfman from West Bloomfield is spending six months in
Tel Aviv as a media intern for Haaretz, particularly working and
writing for the English edition of their Web site.