About 35 determined G.A. participants boarded a bus early this morning headed for Sderot, the scrappy town closest to the Gaza border where rocket attacks have resumed this month, after half a year of relative calm.
Before they could climb aboard, they had to sign waivers acknowledging the riskiness of the trip and absolving UJC of any responsibility for death or injury.
Hundreds of federation donors have made the trip in the past. But UJC was taking no chances. About a dozen rockets had hit the area on Monday, and about 30 struck the day before.
And so a visit to an observation town near the border was scrapped. And a soccer game with kids in a program for children at risk was moved inside a new community center built by the Jewish Agency for Israel.
You see residents of Sderot have about 15 seconds to find shelter after the “Code Red” alert signifying an incoming Kassam rocket blares on the civil defense system. But security had calculated that it would take a full 40 seconds to get the visiting North Americans from the soccer field to a fortified bunker. And so the game moved to the small indoor gym.
The group, taking part in one of over 60 day trips planned for the third day of the UJC General Assembly, did stop by the Sderot police station.
There they saw a collection of scores of Kassams that have hit the town, including one from just two days earlier.
But there was no Code Red — at least not while the G.A. group was in town. But about 45 minutes after the North Americans left the area, the group’s guide received a text message aboard the excursion bus: Sderot had just received a Code Red alert.
Later it was reported that another three rockets had hit the beleaguered town.