Deaths underscore the danger in Sderot

tel aviv | Two young people, both in their 30s, are the latest Sderot residents to be killed on the streets by rockets fired from neighboring Gaza.

The deaths of Shirel Friedman and Oshri Oz within a week of each other illustrate just how dangerous life in the small border town of Sderot has become.

Oz was killed the morning of Sunday, May 27 as he drove to the office where he did computer networking twice a week. He had said goodbye that morning to his 3-year-old daughter and his wife, Susanna — eight months pregnant — in the Tel Aviv suburb of Hod Hasharon.

He was a few feet away from the office when a Kassam rocket crashed near his car. Oz, hit by shrapnel, stumbled out of the car and collapsed onto the road.

“It’s a very cruel coincidence,” said Avi Teiger, a childhood friend of Oz’s who was also one of the paramedics who arrived to help.

Oz’s wife, who saw the smoldering remains of his car on television, reportedly collapsed and was hospitalized. Friends are worried how she will manage alone with a new baby and young daughter.

Among those at his funeral Monday, May 28 were childhood friends from the Sea Scouts, who had gotten together for a reunion with Oz the night before.

Friedman was killed on May 21. She and her mother, Adela, sat on a park bench to rest after shopping ahead of the Shavuot holiday. Her mother said she felt a chill, so Friedman returned home to pick up a sweater. On the way, a Kassam fell and Friedman suffered fatal injuries to her chest and stomach.

“Shirel and I sat outside every day. We were the best of friends,” Adela said. “She was a wonderful daughter.”

The rocket that killed Friedman was one of several that fell in a barrage that night not far from the shopping center in the center of town. At the same time, a group of the town’s businesspeople were meeting to discuss how to best cope with the latest round of Kassam fire that had hit the city a few days before.

Thousands of residents of Sderot poured out of the city last week seeking a respite from the rockets. Schools were closed temporarily. Many residents returned this week.

About 800 students out of some 3,000 came to school on Monday, May 28. At one school, none of the teachers showed up. Eleventh- and 12th-graders were bused to nearby towns to prepare for their matriculation exams.

The Education Ministry rejected a request by Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal to end the school year early, saying it would cause more harm than good.

Angry Sderot residents have said the government has not done enough to fortify buildings against rocket attacks.

Buildings reinforced against attacks in the past two years reportedly are no longer considered safe because the Palestinians are making more powerful rockets with twice the amount of explosives on their warheads.

Yossi Kishk, a longtime close friend of Oz, said Oz “was not afraid of the Kassam rockets” — although his relatives were. Recently they urged Oz to at least ask for a raise to continue taking the risk of traveling to Sderot. “Now we understand that such a raise would not have helped,” Kishk said. “He just shouldn’t have gone there.”