KIRYET YAM, Israel – The year is 2018. Jonathan is 16 and has a dream.
Israel looks completely different to how it did 10 years ago. Back then, Sderot was under attack, there was war in the north and terror in every city. He can still remember how in 2006 three soldiers were kidnapped, Shalit, Regev and Goldwasser and only returned home years later.
Life these days seems almost unreal, so quiet and safe. On the news they talk about how the Israeli team made it into the Soccer World Cup, the success of an Israeli film in the Oscars, about winning the Euro-vision Song Contest and the preparations for hosting next year's event.
Jonathan grew up in Sderot. Certain events he can now hardly recall. He was too young to remember the Katyusha rockets falling on the synagogue and the bomb that blew up in Shlomo's kiosk, where his brother was injured.
What he does remember well is how Israel signed peace deals with Syria and Lebanon and the Palestinians. It wasn't so long ago that everybody celebrated the arrival of long-awaited peace.
Jonathan's happiness isn't complete though, because over the years, his hometown has become more of a ghost-town. The terrorised residents had despaired of living daily life under constant threat and slowly evacuated the city, moving places where rockets wouldn’t fall. The town has become a sad and distant memory in Israeli society. The Israeli government had also recently announced its plan to turn Sderot into a tourist attraction, further betraying his memories.
Jonathan's dream is for everyone to return to Sderot. He doesn't want his childhood home destroyed or turned into a museum. He wants the streets to be full of life like they used to be. He even wants to rescue and bring back all the stray cats and dogs.
Jonathan believes in his dream, and talks his best friend, Daniel, into helping him. Together they try to figure out ways to bring people back to their hometown. It isn't going to be easy. These people are scattered all over the country.
They decide to start by persuading their own families to return. Both families had left 5 years ago, settled in Haifa, in seafront apartments where they live peacefully.
Jonathan has a very hard time convincing his family to return. His mother is reluctant to return to the same neighbourhood where she lost her father in a rocket attack. His brother is also afraid to go back to where he was injured. Daniel's parents are a little more excited at the prospect of returning.
After some persuasion, both families decide to be the first residents of Sderot to return after years of absence.
Gradually, as the news spreads, more and more people of their extended family also come back. Shlomo, the news vendor, returns from abroad and re-opens his kiosk. When interviewed on the news, they plead with other past residents to join them and show the government that they are back and determined to stay.
So thanks to Jonathan’s love for his hometown, and his commitment to restoring the way of life there, he eventually makes his dream come true.
* Moran Phizitski is a student in Kiryat Yam. She is 16 years old. This article was written for the "Imagine 2018" essay competition (www.imagine2018.org), and is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) in collaboration with One Voice (www.onevoicemovement.org). It can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.
Source: One Voice "Imagine 2018" essay competition and Common Ground News, 28 August 2008, www.commongroundnews.org.
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