Thursday, December 06, 2007

Social Protest in Sderot Interrupted by Kassam

Hillel Fendel

A Kassam rocket slammed into an apartment in Sderot Wednesday night, precisely as a joint Chanukah celebration and social protest was underway downtown.
. Four people, including the two elderly residents of the apartment, were treated for shock. Heavy damage was caused to the building.

The Kassam was the fourth of the day; three others were fired from Gaza at Israel earlier - two towards Sderot, and one that exploded south of Ashkelon. No other damage or injuries were caused. Over 2,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel this year, according to IDF statistics.

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said this week that the army is ready for a full-scale military offensive into Gaza to remove the missile threat, but is awaiting orders from the government.

A social protest was underway in downtown at the time the fourth rocket hit, and the Color Red early-warning alarm sounded just as Teachers Union Chairman Ran Erez was in the midst of speaking. As he was lamenting the fact that many classes in the country have as many as 40 or more children, the Color Red announcement was heard by some in the audience, who quickly passed the word around. People scrambled for cover, in accordance with the frequent practice they have received over the years.

The protest featured several social action groups, including reserve soldiers, teachers, the handicapped, and others, who banded together to make their voices heard. They chose to hold their protest not in Tel Aviv, but in Sderot - the city that symbolizes for them the refusal of the government and political leadership to attend to the citizens' needs.

"We are starting something new here today," Ilan Cohen told Arutz-7's TV news department. Cohen is a social activist who initiated the protest event. "Until now everyone held separate protests, which were very nice, but nothing happened as a result. This is the first time that we are going out all together, and the hope is that the people will wake up and realize that since they can't depend on the government, it's up to them - and I don't mean via talkbacks over the internet, but rather by coming out physically to make their voices heard."

Momo Alnekaveh, the wheelchair-bound Chairman of the Association for the Handicapped, said, "If our politicians were real social leaders, they would be with us here today. But they seem to have no interest in coming where there are no cocktails and the like." He was disappointed to see that both Sderot City Hall and shelters had no easy access for the handicapped. "They told us to run to the City Hall or to a nearby shelter if a Color Red alarm is sounded, but how are we supposed to get in?" he asked.


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