sderotProbably Sderot is not on your list of cities in Israel to visit, but it should be. Before it became the repeated target of vicious attacks from the Arabs of Gaza, Sderot was a refuge for Jews escaping bitter and increasing anti-semitism in their host countries.

Established in 1948 as a temporary camp for Kurdish, Persian and Moroccan Jews, Sderot became an official yishuv in 1956. For 30 years it remained a forgotten city with a flourishing Mizrachi culture not much appreciated by the government in control at the time. To further demonstrate its disdain for Sderot, the government chose it as the city to absorb thousands of Ethiopian and Russian immigrants unwanted by other cities in Israel. Nevertheless, all the discarded and ignored residents of Sderot pulled together, becoming a close knit community of artists, teachers, Torah scholars, musicians and lovers of Eretz Israel.

Today, Sderot, located in the northwestern Negev is home to approximately 20,000 people. It has schools, yeshivot, including Hesder Yeshiva Sderot, under the leadership of the Rosh Yeshiva Rav Dovid Fendel, parks, a shopping center, visitors’ center, coffee houses and restaurants.

You can easily reach Sderot by car, but better is to take it easy and enjoy the comfort of the train which will take you straight from Tel Aviv to the Sderot train station. Sadly, the station had to be constructed with rocket-proof material, a testament to the pure determination and resilience of the Israeli people to stand firm and inhabit this good land that G-d gave to us. The Sderot train station opened just a little more than a year ago, enabling a bright light of economic improvement to shine on the beleaguered, embattled inhabitants of this desert city, less than one mile from the Gaza border.

Removing our families from Gush Katif was supposed to bring peace and security to the residents of Sderot and surrounding communities. Instead, Sderot became the recipient site of daily rocket attacks from Gaza, with more than 10,000 recorded rockets in its modern history. Residents have a mere 15 seconds from the time of the alarm to find safety from the incoming rockets.

Some comparisons are made between Sderot and Liverpool, where many great musicians emerged during the time of violence and crisis in London. From Sderot’s bomb shelters and overwhelming psychological pressure, have emerged such well known musical artists as: Shlomo Bar, Teapacks, Knesiyat Hasekel, Micha Biton, Hagit Yaso and Kobi Oz.

Sderot may not have the usual tourist attractions, but by car, bus or train, you should visit Sderot, learn first-hand about the pure mesirat nefesh of our brothers and sisters who are holding on to the Land, eat, shop—boost the local economy a little and be sure to tell all your friends and family what a great time you had in this amazing city in the desert.