Sderot Blog #2

March 11, 2024
By Rabbi Ita Paskind
Category: Editorial, News

This is the second in my blog series reflecting on my mission to Israel.  This will include more difficult content.

A lot of terrible things happened on Saturday, October 7.  We know about the Hamas breach of the security fence, the attack on the Nova Festival, the murders and kidnapping from many kibbutzim.  In all of that craziness, I missed what happened in the town of Sderot.[1]

I first heard of Sderot when I lived in Israel after high school.  It was one of the small towns not far from Kibbutz Sa’ad, where I lived for the second half of the year, and I had no reason to go there.  Sderot, along with another town, Netivot, have become much more well-known over the last 20 years because of their proximity to the Gaza border, because they have endured unthinkable damage/injury/death because of rocket fire from Gaza.

In Sderot, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) sponsored the construction of an Indoor Recreational Center, with quick and easy access to shelters for kids and families.  In Sderot, almost every bus stop now has an adjacent cement shelter, should a rocket alarm sound while someone is waiting for the bus.  In Sderot, like in the entire “Gaza Envelope” (now in the process of changing its name to either Ha’Otef/The Envelope or Tekumah/Revival), residents have lived in deep frustration for DECADES, feeling that the government has abandoned them and resigned them to live in the shadow of rocket fire.


What happened in Sderot on October 7?  It wasn’t good.

Hamas terrorists came into Sderot and planned to take over the Sderot Police Station, a relatively new structure.  It was a 3-story building, one of the larger and taller structures in this town.

On their way into the town, they killed anyone they could from the comfort of their RPG-loaded pickup trucks.  This included a group of senior citizens who were on the second day of a multi-day trip, while they waited at a bus stop at the entrance to the town.  All were killed.


This is the story of the Sderot Police Station.  We learned it from Officer Shai, who was present on that day.  He described a modestly staffed station–it was a Saturday, and it was a holiday–Simchat Torah–so not as many officers were present as usual.  Shai showed us slow-motion footage from a nearby security camera and narrated the arrival of some Hamas vehicles.  It was early in the morning, so there were also officers arriving for work, or who got wind that something was happening and drove over.  Shai showed us a car attempting to leave Sderot–an Israeli couple with 2 young daughters–to escape the sirens.  When they realized they wouldn’t have a clear road to escape by car, they got out, each parent carrying a little girl, and started to run.  Terrorists killed the father immediately.  At the same time, a Bedouin man happened to be driving through, and he grabbed the woman and girls and tried to get them out.  Terrorists shot into the car and killed both adults.  Shai then described how the officers in the street battled the terrorists and then rescued the girls from the car–and he showed us the rescue using body-cam footage.  It was incredible and awful.

The girls are now living with their grandparents.

But killing these parents was not the ultimate objective.  They wanted the police station and to neutralize the official response in Sderot.  They shot toward the snipers on the roof and eventually did infiltrate the station.  Throughout the day, the battle continued, and it did not end well.  The police were not able to fend off the 26 terrorists, and the army did not make it in time to help.  35 people died that day, including 10 Sderot police officers.

By the time soldiers arrived, Hamas held the station, and the army didn’t want to risk losing more people by entering the station.  They decided to dismantle the Sderot Police Station, making it collapse upon the remaining terrorists inside.

The site of the Sderot Police Station is now a sandy lot.  On one side is a mural commemorating that day and the strength of Sderot.  On the other is the start of a makeshift memorial.  One day, this will be an official memorial site, and another new police station will be constructed.


The atrocities in Sderot are one part of the overall massacre in southern Israel on October 7.  It was painful and an honor to bear witness to the heroism of Officer Shai.  And it was a painful reminder of multiple failures that left room for this to happen.

I asked Officer Shai how he’s taking care of himself these days, and I hoped he would say he’d sought out a therapist.  But no.  He says he’s coming to work every day, and putting one step in front of the other.  That’s all he can do.  And it was a privilege to let him know he’s not alone.

[1] Video footage of this rampage was shared by the New York Times on October 10, 2023: