We were in Sderot, just 3 miles from the Gaza Strip and one of the villages that has received the most rockets launched from Gaza.  We went to a hill overlooking Gaza where you can see the buildings of Jabaliya:

People in Israel constantly remind you of how close things are.  In Seattle, we are about 200 miles from Canada—our nearest international border and a rather peaceful one.  Nearly all of Israel would fit in that distance.  And the distance from Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city, to Gaza is about the same as the distance between Tacoma and Seattle.  Last I heard, Tacoma was not launching missiles towards Seattle and Seattle was not bombing Tacoma.  Sderot is closer to Gaza than Tel Aviv.  In the satellite image below, the pushpin on the right is Sderot; the middle one is the border with the Gaza strip; the one on the left is Jabaliya—one of the large cities in the Gaza Strip.  Note the distance scale near the bottom of the satellite photo:

Here is a nice playground for kids in Sderot:

Look at the nice, colorful caterpillar the kids get to play on:

Oh, look—the caterpillar is actually a playground bomb shelter:

Marshall is demonstrating that you should enter and stand behind the orange line to be protected (he’s an older kid….):

This is a strange thing and it says a lot about how vulnerable Israelis feel—they don’t want to lose a single child.  Most of the bus stops have been converted into bomb shelters for people who don’t have one in their house.  When the air raid siren goes off, you have fifteen seconds to find shelter.

These concerns are all real and the children should be protected.  But, some Israelis seem to miss the fact that Palestinians care just as much about their children—and they have lost many more.  But, not all Israelis.  In Sderot, we met with the founders of Other Voice—Israelis who blog with and text message with and call Palestinians on their cell phones.  Perhaps you’ve heard of “Peace man,” the anonymous Palestinian who communicates from Gaza.  We met “Hope man” or Erik, on the Israeli side:

Peaceman and Hopeman’s blog is here:   http://gaza-sderot.blogspot.com/

I recorded our discussion with Erik and I’ll post it later.

Other Voices also posted a peace mural on the fence that separates Gaza from Israel.  Someone tore it down, but they retrieved it. They are going to try to put it back up in some way that enables the Palestinians to see it.

None of this may be very practical, but it shows that even Israelis who are in the line of fire of missiles from Gaza want to work for peace and so do some Palestinians in Gaza.  They are both in the minority in their respective societies, but Other Voices has received a lot of international attention and gives hope to both Israelis and Gazans that sanity is possible.