Israeli photojournalist reports Gaza border-town conflict, PTSD in children
Published: Monday, March 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
Photojournalist Noam Bedein, 30, has experienced hundreds of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into his homeland of Israel over his lifetime, he said. For the past seven years, he has lived two miles from the Gaza-Israel border in the city of Sderot.
During his last presentation of his most recent speaking tour, Bedein said more than 15,000 rockets have been fired into Israel in the past 13 years. According to the Official Blog of the Israel Defense Forces, the number of rockets fired into Israel in the past 13 years was 13,930.
Hamas, the current governing body of the Gaza Strip, and other armed groups in the region are responsible for the rockets fired at Israel, which protest the Israeli occupation. Hamas, which was formed out of the 1987 Intifada against Israeli occupation and draws influence from radical religious clerics, is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Israel U co-hosted Bedein’s event last Tuesday evening in Gore Hall. Bedein founded the Sderot Media Center, a “nonprofit organization of citizen journalism that also serves as a news agency,” according to the group’s website.
“People on the other side of the world cannot really grasp shock or trauma without seeing it on the news,” Bedein said.
Palestinians and Israelis have been engaged in a land dispute since England’s Balfour Declaration of 1917, which granted the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. The state of Israel was created in 1948 after the First Arab-Israeli War, with immediate recognition of the United States and disapproval from Arab states. This left about 750,000 Palestinian refugees physically displaced.
The mission of Bedein’s Sderot Media Center is to provide Israeli and international news media with on-site film footage and reporting of the kassam rocket attacks and their psychological effects upon Sderot residents, according to the website.
When Bedein and five other Israelis presented this message to the United Nations, he said they received a mixed reaction.
He said everyone knows about Gaza but no one knows about Sderot, where every citizen has experienced a missile attack. When citizens leave their doorsteps, they ask themselves when and where the rocket is going to go off, Bedein said.
He has shared his message at about 150 other college campuses in the country, and he said he usually sees protests from people in support of Palestine outside his speeches and has even been interrupted on other campuses. On Tuesday, however, no students protested.
“This is an ongoing rocket reality, which somehow became acceptable,” Bedein said.
Senior Ally Turkheimer, student advisor to Israel U, said the situation in Sderot is heartbreaking. She said prior to the event, she knew about the Palestine media watch but not the one for Sderot.
She said she considers herself very familiar with the situation and wants to dedicate time after graduation to work with the youth in the Jewish community.
“[Bedein] was extremely insightful,” Turkheimer said. “I learned more than I thought I could.”
Bedein said even though the situation has been quiet over the past few weeks, fear still exists. The more time that passes without an attack, the more likely it is people in Sderot will experience an incoming rocket. He said the first day of school is a “popular” day for attacks.
Of children in the Sderot region, Bedein said 94 percent suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. He shared the story of when a toddler was asked why a snail has a shell, the child answered, “to protect them from rockets.”
Once the rocket is fired, citizens have 15 seconds to seek safety, he said, and in schools, children count down aloud in unison. Once they reach zero, they begin singing to avoid hearing the impact.
Human Rights Watch reported four Israeli civilians and 103 Palestinian civilians were killed last year in the crossfire between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Bedein shared images of nine-year-old children in Sderot drawing pictures and writing letters to children in Gaza with dreams of living side-by-side together one day.
Senior Laura Strickland said though she cannot relate to the children’s feelings of fear, she finds it amazing how they get through turmoil. She had never heard about the missiles being launched toward Sderot before the event.
For Strickland, it is hard to keep up with the influx of global news as most of what she hears about the Middle East is hard to believe since she knows things are “construed” differently, she said.
“I really can’t believe that something like that was happening and I literally had no idea,” Stickland said.