Can you give us a quick summary of life in Sderot at the moment?
Right now it is relatively quiet. It has been seven months since Operation Cast Lead. The number of rockets since that period is 230, the last rocket attack was yesterday [last Tuesday]. It is quiet because the rockets aren't going directly into the town itself, only the area. The last direct hit on Sderot was May 19.
The trauma centres in Sderot have been closed down due to lack of funds, which is completely ridiculous.
If rockets are still falling why are the trauma centres being closed down?
The entire population has been under rocket attack for the past eight years. The fact that trauma centres that treat children are being closed due to lack of funds seems unbelievable. Fifty per cent of the funding [for those centres] come from Christian and Jewish foundations and 50 per cent from the government. The foundations go onto another program after a couple of years, so the centres find themselves with no budget.
What impact does that have on the community?
[It mostly affects] the children. The emergency centre was closed down, which provides first aid for residents.
How many people are still living in Sderot?
The population is between 17,000 and 19,000. Four years ago it was 24,000. Most people cannot leave Sderot because real estate prices went down 50 per cent and we're talking about a working-class environment with middle and lower class. The other reason people do not leave is because, and you hear people say this, 'if I leave my home now, these rockets are going to be fired to the next town'. People understand that if Sderot falls, everything else is going to fall with it.
Are many people still visiting Sderot?
Our media centre has the routine of living under fire and living under the threat of fire, during missile escalations and during ceasefire. When it is missile escalations it is mainly foreign journalists coming to the centre. When it is relatively quiet it is mostly student groups from around the world that come.
Do you think people in Australia have a good understanding of what is happening in Sderot?
I don't think Israelis have a good understanding of what is happening in Sderot [let alone Australians]. Not until you have experienced a siren going off before an explosion can you understand how it is to live in a 'rocket reality'. The daily news broadcasts in Israel in the past four years have reported "two Qassam rockets fell in Sderot, no injuries, no harm done, two people were treated for shock. Now to the weather report".
The question is can anyone grasp the meaning of shock or anxiety or trauma if you are listening to those broadcasts. The whole psychological side, the whole human impact, is not mentioned in those broadcasts. This is our challenge, to create awareness. The more media coverage we can get to this region, the more hope we can give to the entire region.
You do hear on news reports that no injuries were sustained from a rocket attack in Sderot, but two people were treated for shock. What does "treated for shock" mean?
What goes through your mind every single day is when and where is the siren going to go off? Where is it going to catch you? Will you have enough time to run for shelter? Where will the rocket explode?
Your entire reality and life is revolving around 15 seconds between when the sirens go and when there is an explosion and you have to plan your daily schedule according to that. The entire population of Sderot is traumatised.
It has become normal when you drive in to wind up your window, turn off your music and take off your seat-belt in case you need to jump out of your car. Taking a minute-and-a-half shower because once you have the water running you won't hear the siren going off.
Do you consider Sderot to be unique?
The entire population has been bombarded for eight years. It is the only town in the 21st century that is under siege.
Do you think that the public is becoming immune to hearing about Sderot?
Most people around the world don't even know about Sderot. But this situation has been going on for a long time and results and solutions are not there.
When you build a US$5 million playground [that protects children from rocket attack] is that a solution? Tens of millions of dollars have been invested in Sderot. The question is, is it solving the problem? [In] 90 per cent [of cases], the answer is no.
No-one really wants to stand up and say the rockets should be stopped and condemn the rockets. A lot of pressure is put on Israel these days. By world public opinion, by the US State Department, by the European Union, by the United Nations, to be running towards a two-state solution. But nobody wants to hear about a region being under rocket attack and threat after we disengage from a territory.
For more information visit www.sderotmedia.org.il.