It was a colorful city. The most colorful one I had seen since our tour began in Israel. Art along the side of the road was painted bright colors. Buildings had accents of color all along the streets. Even trash cans and light poles were splashed with color. I felt like I had stepped into a McDonald’s Play Place.
Our tour bus pulled to the side of the road. Before everyone could file out of the bus into the hot desert air, our tour guide, Ronnie, interrupted and made a small announcement. ‘If you hear an alarm siren go off, immediately look for the closest bomb shelter. You will be given approximately 14 seconds. The siren is the voice of a woman. It will be spoken in Hebrew, but translated it simply means Color Red.’
He announced it like it was the most normal thing in the world. He blew through it as if everyone encounters bomb threats on a regular basis. After exiting the bus, we learned that we were walking through the streets of the most bombed city in Israel, Sderot. I didn’t feel unsafe or vulnerable, but I also didn’t live there. I was simply a tourist, and that was it. I knew we were close to the Gaza Strip, but beyond that, I knew nothing about this city except for what I had learned in the past couple minutes.
We arrived at a playground and everyone immediately began running around, and playing on the equipment like toddlers, laughing and taking pictures, oblivious for the moment to where we were and the significance of it.
After a few minutes, Ronnie called everyone back together. I didn’t know that the words that he was about to say would impact me so greatly. They would change my view of this city. They would shape my knowledge of the conflict between the Gaza Strip and Israel. They would enforce my view of the depravity of man and their need for a Savior. They would make my heart burn and ache for people that I didn’t even know.
Ronnie informed us that studies have been done on the people of Sderot, children and adults alike. 75-94% of people living in Sderot suffer from post-traumatic stress symptoms. I was shocked. They live in constant fear and trauma, always awaiting the next alarm. “Those statistics aren’t accurate. 100% of those living in Sderot suffer and deal with PTSD.” He pulled out a simple Israeli children’s book. A book splashed with color of every kind. Each page was filled with a specific color and what it represented and stood for to the beholder. The color red was left until the very last page. Red had no hope to offer. While yellow represented sunshine, green represented life, and blue represented comfort, red was only a sign of destruction and fear.
Alarm Code Red. It’s a simple color. A color that for the people of Sderot signals war and danger. Children do not wear the color red. The red crayon is the last one to be left in the box. The fear of red is ingrained in the mind of every person, young and old alike and it affects every area of their lives.
Ronnie finished reading the book. The color red doesn’t resemble danger and destruction. It alerts the people. In reality, red offers hope and the opportunity for life despite the war and turmoil.
The simplicity of a color brings fear. That reality forever changed the way that I think of those who live under the cloud turmoil, and not only in Israel, but around the world. I have never lived in fear of war or bombs or terrorists or last second alarms. I’ve never been going throughout my normal routine, heard a siren, and had less than 15 seconds to make it to safety. I’ve never suffered from PTSD simply because of the location of my home. But people live in that reality. Children live with that fear. Parents wrestle with moral dilemmas regarding the safety of their children. I’ll never forget that conversation on the playground and that trip to Sderot. I never want to stop aching for the people that live in constant fear because of the wickedness and sinfulness of man and their desire for power and control. I will never look at the color red in the same way.
Everyone slowly and somberly filed back onto the bus. Looking around, there was no red. Nothing on the playground was painted red. The decorations around the town were splashed with every color except for red. The absence of one color represented the plight of those in constant danger. The color Red.