Less than 24 hours after sustaining a direct hit from a Qassam rocket, the hydrotherapy rehabilitation center in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council has nearly returned to business as usual.
"Though people were hesitant and there were some who cried, we are at 100% capacity. Even after a day like that, people who were wounded in the past by Qassam rockets and hostile acts came here," said the manager of the center's rehabilitation ward, Irit Tzedek.
This is the fourth time since rockets have started being fired at the western Negev that the rehabilitation center – which treats handicapped IDF veterans, victims of terrorist attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder patients – has sustained a direct rocket hit. Funding for fortifying the building, it should be noted, was raised by center employees themselves without any assistance from government authorities or the Defense Ministry.
Damage to rehab center on Saturday (Photo: Zeev Trachtman)
For many patients, the rehabilitation center is like a second home. Amos Lilo, a handicapped IDF veteran wounded during the Second Lebanon War, believes the hit to the center is worse than destroying a house. "Please excuse the comparison, but this is a place for treating the handicapped. It's like damaging a hospital," he said.
Lilo, who uses crutches to get around, insists on walking up to the second floor to see with his own eyes the destruction incurred by the rocket. "It is very painful. I am stunned by the damage. I am even more stunned by the personal insult. Targeting a center like this is like targeting my caretaker. At first, I didn't understand that the rocket hit here, even though I know that this is an area prone to misfortune. It is a little stressful to hear a siren every few hours, especially for trauma victims."
Danny Lazmi, a Sderot firefighter whose house was twice hit by a Qassam, did not forego taking a dip in the hydrotherapy pool. "I was debating whether to come or not because it takes you back to the time when rockets rained down. Today you can never know. We don't rely on anything and we always have some sort of question mark. There is no security. There is no place in this region that has not been damaged by rockets. This problem needs to be solved already."
"There are some people that don't show it, but we know it's going to come. We've been through this before, and we know that even if there are no signs now, it will hit them later," added Tzedek.
The center's manager, Itay Tzuri, also noted that the bulk of dealing with the rocket hit is not in the necessary repairs, but in returning to a routine. "Despite this, we expect the State to take responsibility and provide us with proper fortification," he said.
In light of the recent increase in rocket attacks and shelling, the Shaar Hanegev, Eshkol, Hof Ashkelon, and Sdot Negev regional councils plan on petitioning the High Court to order the State to provide fortification for public institutions. In addition, the regional councils are demanding that the Iron Dome missile defense system be deployed immediately.