Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sderot is the New Black

I, like many others, have wondered what I could do to help the folks in Sderot. It is really frustrating—you want to help, but there does not seem to be anything one can do. And then someone came up with the simply brilliant idea of doing one's shopping there. I mean, really, shopping and brunch? Hello! Can you say "perfect task for a Tel Avivit"? So this past Friday morning, armed with only a burning desire to help and our credit cards, my very hip friend Ellie and I boarded a mini-bus for a trip to the land of poppies and missiles.

Now, some of you might think that this is a foolhardy mission for one who has already been through one bombing. In fact, the opposite is true. As my friend Kayla will tell you, the odds you will be in two bombings are much lower than your being in one bombing. Ergo, I am a walking, talking odds reducer! I made sure to share this knowledge with Ellie. She, very sensibly, pointed out that the anti-bomb protection only applies so long as we are actually together. So, if you are with me, and you want to take advantage of the Poor Sad Victim of Terror Odds Reduction Protection Policy®, remember not to stray more than a bomb's distance away.

Incidentally, Kayla has asked me to point out to my readers that 1) she is actually very intelligent and 2) she is aware that she is employing faulty logic and 3) we all really like the faulty logic, and intend to keep using it. Thank you for your understanding.

But I digress….

On the way down Ellie and I shared our respective precautions. She put a note on her Facebook account saying that she was going to Sderot, so that if she did not come back, people would know where to look for her. In addition, she arranged for her relatives to check in with her at a certain time. She also told me that her mom's phone number was in her phone.

I had a pedicure and I wore my Naots. I made sure that Ellie knew my toenails were red. As for the phone, nu, be'emet! If I blow up it's going with me. Who cares whose number is on it? Obviously, I did not share this thought with Ellie. Why freak her out unnecessarily? Besides, I might want her to come with me again to Sderot.

In no time at all (our driver was something of a speed demon) we arrived in Sderot. It was time to shop. A girl from the mini-bus offered to take us to a supermarket a bit further out from the center of town; one that is probably not benefiting too much from Sderot's sudden surge in tourism. The three of us piled into a cab and headed off. Sderot is a relatively small town, and as it turned out, our "guide" knew the cab driver. Once she told him that Ellie and I were from out-of-town, he decided to take a roundabout route, so that we could see a bit of Sderot.

I had expected Sderot to look like a beat-up slum, full of ugly, crumbling apartment buildings, a'la Petach Tikvah. Now, the city center is on the decrepit side; it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Be'er Sheva Central Bus Station, itself not exactly a contender for any urban design awards, unless there is a special award for "ugly, but functional, use of concrete". The residential areas, on the other hand, are for the most part quite pretty and peaceful looking—lots of white houses with red roofs and trees and flowers. Granted, some of the houses were a bit run-down, but many were really nice. It was easy to see why people would want to live here. Right on the edge of the city is a park where the calaniot (poppies) were in bloom—the area is famous for them this time of the year.

I mused out loud that, in a place as peaceful as this, it was hard to imagine bombs raining down and people living in constant fear. Then our driver took us to see a bombed out car where we also saw (like a kind of extra bonus) an old lady sweeping up the Kassam wreckage. What can I say? There is nothing quite like a visual aid to help you visualize.

The tour over, the driver let us off at the supermarket. Over the next forty minutes, the same amount of time it took us to travel from Tel Aviv to Sderot, Ellie and I made it to four stores in two completely different neighborhoods, bought a respectable quantity of stuff, and experienced two Code Reds. The first time, the owner shooed everyone into a storage area/bomb shelter to wait for the bomb to fall. I heard nothing, though everyone else did (not an unusual occurrence for me). The second time, there was no bomb shelter at hand. Instead, everyone just hurried to the back of the store to wait it out. This time, I did hear the boom—it scared the crap out of me. In front of me a woman started to shake uncontrollably; I think she was having a panic attack.

But the most fascinating part of our visit—more fascinating than the calaniot, the bombed-out car or even the bombs, was the restaurant. No, it was not because of the Tel-Aviv-style prices, though it is true that the ridiculously overpriced latte goes far in making a city girl feel right at home. Rather, it was the company: a whole passel of local bigwigs and one Knesset member (from here on out referred to as "Mr. Politician"), their wives, their aides, their groupies and other random hangers-on were holding court at the table next to us. The owners of the restaurant brought out the good stuff: wine and whisky and the group proceeded to have a nice, leisurely breakfast, interspersed with chats with reporters and journalists from what appeared to be pretty much every televised and print news publication known to man.

(I should point out that, miraculously, from the moment that Mr. Politician and the bigwigs appeared on the scene, all of the bombs stopped! Ellie and I each have our own pet conspiracy theory in respect to this point. Another time, maybe.)

And then, as if this were not enough, two musicians (using the term very loosely) suddenly appeared on the scene. They immediately launched into full volume accordion, tambourine and guitar renditions of Hava Nagila and many other equally beloved classics. (I would tell you what they were, but I seem to have blocked out the memory. I think it is a sort of subconscious protective measure). Most of the time they just played, but here and there they would actually sing. Again, using the word loosely. The Bigwig/Mr. Politician group loved it. It was truly…something, watching our leaders as they clapped their hands to the music and sang along. At one point, a group of what could only be hilltop youth, overcome with joy at the music (or perhaps it is whatever they smoke in them thar hills) started to dance the hora.

And then suddenly, out of the blue, it struck me: the musicians had made a mistake! Clearly, I mean, CLEARLY, the musicians intended to cheer up the folks of Sderot, like the woman who had a panic attack, and not Mr. Politician and Co. I decided to see if citizen action could correct the error. I approached Mr. Politician.

Me: Hello, Mr. Politician?

Mr. Politician: Good morning.

Me: Ummm…don't you find (pointing at the now wildly gyrating accordionist) this rather bizarre?

Mr. Politician: (mumbles something unintelligible about wanting to be with his supporters or to support Sderot).

Me: Like, don't you think it would make more sense if they were on the other side of the street? At the stores? With the people who live here? To cheer them up?

Mr. Politician: (mumbles something unintelligible about wanting to be with his supporters or to support Sderot)

Me: I mean, if I were to say something, no one would listen to me. But you are important (work on his ego…work on his ego)! If you were to, say, suggest to them that they go across the street to the stores, and play for the actual residents of Sderot, they would listen to you.

Mr. Politician: (mumbles something unintelligible about wanting to be with his supporters or to support Sderot).

Me: Thank you! Shabbat shalom!

So, the woman with the panic attack never got to hear the musicians. Though of course, this may be for the best. They may well have caused a relapse.

Whatever…. After breakfast and the shirat b'tzibur (singalong) from hell, Ellie and I decided to check out the stores on the other side of the cafĂ©. One had a nice selection of sheets and other linens. I bought a new bed last week and had been thinking of getting a new set of sheets for it—why not do that here? That way, instead of having to look at the purchase as spending money I do not actually have (because I spent all my money on the damn latte), I can consider it tzedakah (charity). And as an added bonus, since I bought the new sheets, I was able to donate an old set of sheets to the Darfur refugees. Savta Dotty is collecting stuff for them, so Friday afternoon I loaded up two bags with the sheets, some pillows and other random items I had wanted to get rid of, including a pair of lovely, but thoroughly impractical, high-heeled shoes. You know, in case one of the Bnei Darfur decides to find employment as a hooker.

[Just to clarify—I do think it is a good thing to go shop in Sderot and intend to go back this week. It is just that the atmosphere was rather weird, to put it mildly].


BBJ said...

Sounds like quite the outing. I do agree, though, that people with shattered nerves should not have to put up with accordions.

Have you considered a CafePress store? I would totally buy a T-shirt that says "Sderot Is The New Black".

robin said...

I couldn't tell if it was a joke about their surge of tourism - are there a lot of people going to spend money in Sderot to help them out, or just a few brave people who feel the odds are against them (like you)? :)

Batya said...

Great post.
Some of my neighbors went on the Friday I was busy preparing for a Shabbat family reunion.

ps I think the "lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place" is just a myth, not true at all. But as I said over and over when my baby (now 24) was getting massive antibiotics to save his life when a few weeks old, "It should be enough for his entire life," and since, bli eyin haraa, he has hardly had any since.

Unknown said...

...we all really like the faulty logic, and intend to keep using it. Thank you for your understanding.

Here, here for the faulty logic! :-)

What a brilliant summary of how so many of us cope with the tough stuff!

And as usual, a you've crafted a fabulous blend of humor and reality to paint a picture so clear, you could almost touch it!

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

We're organizing a bus down to Sderot to do Purim shopping - but I really want to go for Shabbat. Kol hakavod that you went!

Anonymous said...

JewishGal - yes. People have been organizing Friday shopping outings to Sderot to help. I was supposed to go with a group of fellow Texans this week but we got really scared.

Kol Hakavod that you went. I'm a new reader to your blog - I started this week and literally went through every post you have from January (I'm in the middle of February, but I have you on my RSS reader so I am updated).

I hope all is well with you. Keep up the great blog - I intend on blogging about once I figure out a good angle that will get your subscribers.

Anonymous said...

I am enjoying your blog, Gila! You've got a great flair for writing and sharp commentary :-)

The irony of a JLM homocide bombing victim going to Sderot, and your message to the politician, is a lesson for all the fearful.

And the comedy - high heel shoes for the Darfur hookers? LOL!

I have a feeling - you're destined for celebrity, Gila. You're definitely my favorite Israeli blog.

mother in israel said...

Um, you clearly haven't been to Petach Tikva in a while. If you don't have time to go to Sderot one Friday we can arrange a tour for you.

Anonymous said...

I think the t-shirts should say that "Sderot is the new red".

Soccer Dad said...

Your "Poor Sad Victim of Terror Odds Reduction Protection Policy®" reminds me of this definition of an actuary:
An actuary is someone who brings a fake bomb on a plane, because that decreases the chances that there will be another bomb on the plane.

sparrow said...

Gila, you make me laugh and cry within nano seconds. There's a term of endearment down here which indicates that someone is "off the wall, humourous, eccentric, witty, not quite "the norm" and very winsome" all in one person = A Dag.

Consider yourself A Dag m'dear.

Gila said...

Bala-CafePress? Interesting idea. Anyone else interested?

JewishGal--a little bit of everything. Lots of people are going, but the atmosphere is quite bizarre and the people who are actually living there are going through hell.

Batya-the whole bomb-protection is a long-running joke with my friends.

Zehava, Yehe, Taltalk, JD, Sparrow-thank you, thank you!

Mother in Israel--This week I am going back to Sderot, but maybe next week? I could bike over.... Do you guys have, like, parks in Petach Tikva? Or grass? Or trees? Or sidewalks? Or....roads? :p

Soccer: Nu, it isn't enough that I have to put up with the accountant jokes?

Baila said...


So THAT's where you live!

Anonymous said...

I was also thinking of CafePress or setting up a T-shirt/merchandise/souvenir stall in Shderot. Hopefully someone from Shderot will do it before someone out of town will.

By the way 1. Calaniot are not Poppies, they are anemones which is not the same. Poppies are Pragim and are used to make opium.

By the way 2. Certain brands of cellphones have been known to be bomb-proof at least rocket proof. Although, they do not hold up to being run over by an armored personnel carrier, as the girl at Cellcom found out when my brother brought his in to be fixed in a little baggie.

Anonymous said...

Good post, Gila.. i love that you're an odds-reducer! But just for the record -- Petach Tikva is NOT a "beat-up slum, full of ugly, crumbling apartment buildings" and you are hereby invited to my place, and to meet the trolls, to prove it. Bring Liza if you like -- she owes me a visit or several.

So there, ner.

(Btw, kudos on such a simple but brilliant way of showing support and actively helping the Sderot economy. Yay you!)

mother in israel said...

I emailed you. Baila, you had me scrambling to remove some posts LOL.

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Dear Gila,
I live in Morocco but would like very much to find some way of benefitting from the Poor Sad Victim of Terror Odds Reduction Protection Policy®. Is there anyway we can work out an email plan? I would be much appreciative.

Thanking you in advance for your consideration....