What happens when terrorism comes to a small town? This article helps us to understand what is going on in the Land of Israel.
SELMA, CA â€” For the eleventh consecutive day, residents of rural Selma, California have sustained vicious and unprovoked rocket attacks.
Selmaâ€™s working-class population of 22,800 includes a large number of immigrants. The small, friendly townâ€™s economy in central Californiaâ€™s San Joaquin Valley is based on agriculture and built on generations of farming families. Despite the financial hardships, they stay to cultivate and harvest fields of grapes that earn Selma the title, â€œRaisin Capital of the World.â€ Eleven schools and 35 churches support both the young and elderly residents of the town, as do the local hospital and rural health clinics.
It is hard to imagine, but this little town has been the target of over 1,200 Qassam rockets since August 2005. In the past month alone, nearly 300 rockets assaulted the rural community, each one accompanied by the â€œRed Dawnâ€ air raid warning system Selma initiated in 2001 when the first rockets hit. The â€œRed Dawnâ€ announcement blares out of an elaborate intercom system installed in nearly every building and throughout residential neighborhoods. The warning allows residents between 15 and 60 seconds to find shelter before an incoming rocket blast. Every home, commercial building and school in Selma is built with a â€œsafe roomâ€ or bomb shelter. In a town with 50 percent of its population over age 65 â€” and 3,000 children â€” less than 60 seconds is not always enough time to hide.
A Qassam (kah-SAHM) is a crude but lethal weapon designed to inflict maximum civilian casualties. Too crude to be aimed with any sort of precision, it has absolutely no military applications. It is useful only to murder civilians and terrorize survivors.
The Qassamâ€™s power lies in the explosive payload stuffed in the rocketâ€™s metal shell, which is then packed with more than 7,000 metal ball bearings. Each ball bearing, less than Â¼ inch in diameter, has a blast force capable of tearing through human flesh with deadly effect. One ball bearing, in other words, can create a hole in the human liver sufficient to guarantee that the victim will bleed to death before reaching Selma Community Hospital just a mile away. A single ball bearing that penetrates the human skull might leave a devastating neurological injuryâ€¦provided the victim survives long enough to demonstrate the damage.
Who would fire such a horrifying weapon â€” indeed, over three thousand since 2001 â€” at the peaceful residents of this central California town? Look no further than the terrorists elected to govern the citizens of nearby Fowler just four miles north of Selma on Highway 99.
Today is Jake Jacobyâ€™s funeral. The entire city of Selma mourns the loss of the 43-year-old father of four whose life was taken earlier this week when Selmaâ€™s Blocklite manufacturing plant (where he worked as a concrete mason) sustained a direct Qassam hit. Blocklite built the concrete reinforcements that protect Selmaâ€™s kindergartens from incoming Qassams.
Jakeâ€™s co-workers survived to witness the destruction of the rocketâ€™s impact. Immediately after the blast, despite their own injuries, they attempted to slow the bleeding from Jakeâ€™s head and torso. Doctors at the nearest trauma center (20 miles away in Fresno) also tried to save his life, but the ball bearings had done too much damage. He died within hours.
Jakeâ€™s 12-year-old son, Brandon, speaks to a reporter after his fatherâ€™s memorial service, explaining why his family has chosen to remain in Selma despite the constant barrage of rockets:
“I love Selma very much, and I won’t leave it because I love California. If I leave Selma, if all of Selma were evacuated, then the state would fall apart. The [terrorists in Fowler] will see that they are succeeding in Selma, and then they’ll shoot Qassams at San Francisco and Los Angeles too, and do the same in the whole state until nothing is left.”
The horrifying event described above actually happened. But it didnâ€™t happen in Selma, California.
Change the names, travel 8,000 miles east, and visit the working-class town of Sderot, Israel. But be prepared to heed the Shahar Adom (â€œRed Dawnâ€) Qassam rocket warning system activated before every one of more than 1,200 attacks the community of 23,000 residents has endured since August 2005. Since 2001, the total number of rocket attacks sustained by Sderot is 3,000.
Sderot is a blue-collar town consisting largely of immigrants who escaped persecution in the former Soviet Union or starvation and sectarian violence in Ethiopia. The economy is based on agriculture â€” no easy feat in the arid soil and scorching climate of western Israelâ€™s Negev desert. But neighbors help neighbors, and there is a strong sense of community often found among those who choose the small town life. There are eleven elementary schools, but playgrounds have remained empty since a Qassam took the life of 4-year-old Afik Zehavi as he played.
The need for Trauma Services, including counseling and support groups, overwhelms social workers in Sderot. Fifty percent of the townâ€™s children under age five show signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Who would fire such a horrifying weapon â€” indeed, more than three thousand times â€” at the peaceful residents of this southern Israeli town? Look no further than the Hamas terrorists elected to govern the citizens of the Gaza Strip, just one kilometer west as the crow (or Qassam) flies.
On November 21, 2006, the chicken processing plant where 43-year-old Yaakov Yaakobov worked as a forklift operator was struck by a Qassam rocket launched by Hamas terrorists from a residential neighborhood in the Gaza Strip city of Beit Hanoun, six kilometers from Sderot. Yaakov suffered massive head trauma when shrapnel and ball bearings tore through his body. Hemorrhaging and unconscious, he was rushed to the nearest hospital (20 miles away in Beersheba), where he died within hours from the blast injury to his skull.
Yaakovâ€™s son, Hanan, answered the question of a reporter after his fatherâ€™s memorial service. Asked why his family had already decided to remain in Sderot despite the constant barrage of rockets under which they live, the 12-year-old boy whose father was just murdered by terrorists responded simply:
“I love Sderot very much, and I won’t leave it because I love the State of Israel. If I leave Sderot, if all of Sderot were evacuated, then the country would fall apart. The Palestinians will see that they are succeeding in Sderot, and then they’ll shoot Kassams at Ashkelon and Ashdod too, and do the same in the whole country until nothing is left.”
Central Californiaâ€™s rural, friendly town of Selma is a special place. I am grateful to be a member of this small but close community. I am grateful that our neighbor to the north, Fowler, is a good one.
I am also grateful that not once since 2001 has a siren blaring â€œRed Dawnâ€ disturbed Selmaâ€™s peaceful residents. Not a single Qassam rocket has destroyed a Selma building or torn through the body of any of the 23,000 residents calling the town home. Our homes and businesses do not have to furnish loudspeakers and bomb shelters for terrified citizens to cower in as our city is assaulted. We have not had to watch helplessly as our vineyards and fruit trees burn after the explosion of a Qassamâ€™s payload. We have held no funerals for victims of terrorist attacks at Blocklite or Garfield Elementary School, and our Social Services deal with problems very different from that of four-year-olds whose entire lives have been punctuated by rocket blasts.
It is easy to digest news reports of terrorism victimizing faceless strangers in remote places. It is far more difficult to recognize that what distinguishes us from those who suffer is something as random as geography.
(Editor’s NOTE: This article was the work of Dr. Linda Halderman and is worthy of our prayerful consideration and concern!)