Craig Dershowitz is president of Artists 4 Israel. He lives in New York City.
Rocket attacks fired by Hamas fighters are part of daily reality for people living in Israel, in particular in Sderot, a town near the border with Gaza. Those affected aren’t soldiers, they are innocent civilians – women, elderly people, children. Our goal, when we organised this event, was to make that reality tangible to New Yorkers. The shelter is an exact wooden replica of those that are built all across Israel.
The act of actually running for cover was pretty eye-opening for some participants. At first, people took it as a game, laughing as they ran across the park. But when some people found themselves stuck outside the shelter after 15 seconds were up, the reality of the horror sank in. The shelters are small, there isn’t room for everybody. If you don’t run fast enough, you can get killed. Some people actually had tears in their eyes after participating.
“The shelter was decorated by graffiti artists”
Inside the shelter, we had an immersive video installation showing real-life footage of a Qassam rocket
barrage hitting Sderot. That way, visitors could experience the reality of bombs exploding all around them. The outside of the shelter was decorated by several of New York’s top graffiti artists. In the past, Artists 4 Israel has organised trips for famous graffiti artists to paint Sderot shelters, which are usually made of ugly grey concrete.
The event went even better than we had expected. It drew a large crowd of between 400-500 people throughout the day – not just onlookers, people who stopped and took notice. But more importantly, it achieved a very high level of discourse and dialogue, which is what we are trying to promote. As with every event concerning Israel, it drew a certain number of counter-protesters, and yes, a couple of people yelled into each other’s faces. But mainly, the pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian activists present engaged in active discussion. Heated rhetoric and hate only causes an increase in violence, and what we’re mainly trying to say is: whatever the cause of fighting is, creating a situation where children are forced to run to bomb shelters on any given day of their life is not the solution.”
All photos courtesy of Artists 4 Israel.