Estee Nemeth is embarrassed by her government over the way it has treated the city in which she lives.
We met with dozens of residents of Sderot in our two days in their town and the story of this embattled town started to emerge through their frustrations.
The 25-year-old, who grew up in Canarsie, New York, is finishing a degree in filmmaking at Sapir College in Sderot, one of only two colleges in Israel that offers degrees in film. (In an effort to draw students to Sderot, Sapir is offering scholarships paid for by the UJC to students who have enrolled over the last two years.)
Her thesis is an eight-minute film that describes Sderot as she sees it.
Simply, it is the wordless story of a boy dancing by himself in different parts of Sderot. At each spot, he dances a different dance to a different type of music. In his final dance, he dances to the sound of a young man screaming violently in pain.
The pain, though, is real. The screams are genuine.
Two years ago, Nemeth who describes herself as a right-winger, was inside her home when she heard a Kassam land outside. She grabbed her camera and ran outside to shoot the scene. When she got there, her neighbor, a young boy, had been injured badly by shrapnel. “He was split open from his neck to his waist,” recalled the filmmaker, who in the shock of the real-life horror ended up recording only audio because she forgot she was shooting and ended up dropping the camera to her side as the boy’s mother tended to her son. He eventually survived.
Nemeth is at the center of another well-publicized controversy at Sapir – she filed a complaint against an Israeli-Arab professor who she claims made her cover a small Israeli flag that she had sewn onto her bag.
Despite her Zionism, she is “embarrassed” by her government, which she feels has left the people of Sderot abandoned in the town.
The people, most of whom are already poor, are trapped financially in the city, as none can sell their houses. Commerce and employment have slowed to a near standstill, she says. “There’s a chain supermarket, but only in Sderot will the store have 10 lanes and only two people working,” she said. “It’s little things like this because no one has any money.”
And they are trapped sometimes physically, she said, as only one public bus goes to Tel Aviv, and that bus comes to Sderot only once an hour. There is an internal bus line that goes through Sderot, which Nemeth uses to get back and forth to school. She refuses to walk anymore because she is afraid.
And while she likes Sderot, she said that she feels guilty that she will most likely leave the city when she graduates after this year, because there is no film work in Sderot.
“On days when there are 50 or so Kassams falling, you should see what the bus station looks like,” she said.