In 2001, militant Palestinian organizations started firing missiles over the border of the occupied Gaza strip. More than 10’000 of them fell on the grounds of the Israeli city of Sderot, which is only a short distance from the Palestinian city of Beit Hanoun. In Sderot more than 10 people were killed until today and a lot more were injured. Israel launched several attacks against Gaza, the most violent of them being Operation Cast Lead in 2008 when more than 1000 Palestinians were killed and more than 5000 injured.
During the most dreadful times, Sderot was targeted by more than 30 rockets per day. When we visited, it was calm. The last attack had occurred about two weeks in the past. Nomika, peace and social justice activist, mother and an inhabitant of an urban Kibbutz in Sderot, describes herself as a “victim of shock and anxiety.” Her voice is trembling when she talks about the daily traumas she went through:
10 to 15 seconds are left when the Israeli warning system “Zeva Adom” (code red) goes off. 10 to 15 seconds to run from your bed to the concrete shelter in the house at night. 10 to 15 seconds to decide, which child of the ones you accompany to school in the morning you can protect with your own body while you have to leave the other’s to their fate. During peak times (2006, 2008, 2012) people started to sleep in their shelters and stayed in their houses for weeks. Social life, work, intimacy of couples, school, everything is affected. The constant threat, the constant fear of death and the impossibility to live a normal life made thousands of people leave Sderot over the past years and hundreds of businesses closed.
Posttraumatic stress disorders are common and a lot of inhabitants of the area seek therapeutic assistance. Nomika and a few others went further than that: They founded “Other Voice”. There was and is a desire to talk to the other side, the neighbours, the people of Gaza. This desire is accompanied by the conviction that violence does not end the conflict. “Other Voice” keeps in touch with people from Gaza, stands up against calls for war and its glorification in Israeli media. In “War diary from Sderot” (published 2008) Nomika writes:
Not in my name and not for me did you go into this war. The bloodbath in Gaza is not in my name nor for my security. Houses destroyed, schools blown up, thousands of new refugees – they are not in my name or for my security.
“Other Voice” has met with Palestinians from Gaza, listens to their stories of continuous violence, continuous oppression and continuous war, of a friend bombed away, of fishermen shot by the army, of serious health problems due to polluted water. In 2012, after an increase in missiles sent towards Israel, the army launched a new operation and called it “Pillar of Defence”. After the war, Nomika addressed the public again, criticizing its absence of empathy for other people and questioning Israel’s attitude, claiming to be the only victim in this conflict:
How has a nation that has occupied other people’s territory for forty-five years continued to tell itself, with such deep conviction, that we are the single and ultimate victim in this story? And the evil of the occupation has become so banal that no one sees the evil anymore.
Nomika is pessimistic about the future, does not see light at the end of the tunnel, but she insists that she wants a future here.
I want to live in a society that does not occupy others.