Playground Wars Pit Defeated Sderot Mayor Against the Man Who Challenged Him

Before Sderot residents send their kids to the playground, they have a big political question to decide on: Which playground should they chose - the one established by Sderot Mayor David Buskila, or the one built by the man he defeated in the last campaign, Alon Davidi.

The big jungle gym war in this western Negev town near the Gaza Strip began began with Buskila's promise when he came into office to build a rocket-proof indoor playground for the town's children. About ten months ago, the facility opened. Operated by the city's economic corporation, it consists of 2,000 square meters of sports courts and computer rooms, which can be used by 500 children at a time. Organizations from the United States donated $5.2 million to build the center, most of which went for reinforcing the building against rockets. It was designed so that a child can reach a protected zone in the building in under 10 seconds.

Then, about five months ago, Davidi, head of the opposition faction in the municipality, decided to build another recreation center. That center, operated by an organization working for security for Sderot headed by Davidi, is only 500 square meters in size. It, too, was funded by donors from Israel and abroad, and cost about NIS 500,000 to build. With only one staff member, it costs only a few thousand shekels a month to run, as opposed to the larger facility which has a staff of eight.

And so now that the "Color Red" alarms signaling an impending rocket attack are silent, the people of Sderot are left wondering why such as small town needs two such facilities. "I can't decide what playground to send my kids to - Buskila's is much bigger, but Davidi's is cheaper to get into," one Sderot mom said.

"What Davidi's done here is a joke. He took advantage of the fact that Buskila built a big successful playground, and is trying to make political hay at the expense of Sderot's kids," another resident added.

Davidi said, "I welcome any project that benefits the children of Sderot, but I regret that some people take advantage of resources contributed for the good of the public to arrange jobs for political partners."

Buskila said: "It is a great pity that Davidi uses funds he received to improve security in Sderot to advance his political goals. Davidi's actions have caused huge damage to the residents and many donors are hesitating, because of his actions, to contribute to the residents."