JERUSALEM 11.5.10: With two months until the end of the school year, several students at the religious AMIT high school of Sderot found themselves fulfilling a lifelong dream. Rotem Timsit and nine other Sderot girls, high school-aged actresses, who are part of Sderot Media Center's Community Treatment Theater, got to perform in the Knesset this past Tuesday.
In front of a full house which included Knesset speaker and MK Reuven Rivlin, former Defense Minister Amir Peretz and other MKs, as well as students from Boyar High School of Jerusalem, the girls performed Children of Qassam Avenue. A theatrical production that tells the story of teenage girls growing under rocket fire, the play is based on the true life experiences of the Sderot girls, who spent a year undergoing drama therapy to overcome PTSD symptoms resulting from rocket terror. “This is more than just a play,” said Noam Bedein, director of Sderot Media Center. “The idea of this production is to inspire a change in perception of the Sderot-Gaza conflict. The past decade of rocket attacks, and the tremendous psychological damage done to a population of young children and teenagers, is often completely ignored or overlooked by mainstream media both in Israel and internationally.”
"The first place to begin this change of perception is in the Knesset," said Bedein. "We hope that our political leaders recognize the powerful advocacy tool we have established in this community theater concept. This is the only platform out there presenting Israel's side of the Sderot-Gaza conflict through the voices of Israeli youth who have suffered from Gaza rocket attacks. "
Knesset Speaker, Reuven Rivlin who invited the Sderot girls to perform in the Knesset stated that he personally appreciated the girls coming to share their painful reality through the art of theater.
"This production is something that was able to draw us all into a reality that is foreign to most of us. The war that took place in Sderot and the western Negev felt like a war taking place in another country," Rivlin stated. "The girls showed great talent in their performance but even more importantly they demonstrated to us what these Qassam rockets can do, that they are lethal and terrifying."
Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz, himself a resident of Sderot, noted that the rocket terror could have impacted the girls in two different ways: "the situation could have led them to a complete breakdown or generated resilience and strength as demonstrated here today."
"This message of resilience is for the entire state of Israel--we must remember that Sderot, a city of working class citizens, was able to withstand a terrible test while demonstrating unique courage in the face of continued rocket attacks," said Peretz.
Students of Boyar High School of Jerusalem who come from all over Israel, sat quietly during the entire performance, as many for the first time witnessed what life was like for fellow Israeli teenagers growing up in the rocket zone of Sderot and the western Negev. During the question-and-answer discussion after the performance, a Boyar student asked if any of the girls would remain in Sderot to raise their families and children. Sixteen-year old tenth grader, Rotem Timsit answered, "we still love our city and will continue to live in Sderot, and yes I can see myself raising my kids there."
For Rotem, the performance in the Knesset was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which she hopes will continue. "We came to share our story and show the rest of Israel and especially our political leaders how a decade of rocket terror, condensed in this one-hour show, will not drive us out of Sderot."
Special thanks goes to Janet Lehr of New York for providing the funds for the Sderot Community Treatment Theater program. Sderot Media Center is currently looking for sponsors to continue the financial operation of the theater program.
Photo Credit: Jacob Shrybman, Sderot Media Center