Sderot Public Pool Open for Swimmers After Rockets

After being left high and dry for three years, Sderot residents will now be able to enjoy the municipal swimming pool once again, Mayor David Bouskila said yesterday.

"The Qassams won't dictate our lives," Bouskila said. The pool is slated to open on June 30.

The pool may not seem significant at first glance, but those familiar with Sderot know it held a central place in its residents' summer leisure, and how much it was missed during the past three summers.

Sderot's pool is a meeting place for local kids and families on hot days and was filled with residents from morning until night. In the afternoons hundreds of area residents from Sderot and surrounding communities came to tan on its decks, and evenings featured sing-alongs with well-known entertainers.

But when the Qassams started falling, the pool received fewer and fewer visitors, the lively atmosphere evaporated and lifeguards found themselves with no one to look after.

Eventually the pool was closed for fear of swimmers' safety, as the pool offered no protection during rocket barrages. More than once a rocket landed dangerously close. The Qassam that killed Oshri Oz, who was driving in her car, struck 30 meters from the municipal pool.

"The Sderot pool is something of a symbol of the city, of its leisure culture," said one city official.

There is much work to be done. Weeds have taken over the grassy poolside areas, and the surrounding fence has been broken.

Bouskila is promising the new facility will be better than its predecessor, offering a fitness center, spa, Jacuzzi, saunas, tennis courts and martial arts center.

There are also plans are also plans to cover the pool so it can be enjoyed in winter.

City officials waxed nostalgic about the summer days of their youth, sprawled out by the pool. "As a child I learned to swim there. Our school had a swim team, and we held all our practices in the pool," said Amnon Koznitz, a city council member. "Every time I pass by the pool and see how it looks, my heart aches."

Bouskila said the pool is a potent symbol of normal life despite the ever-present threat of Qassams. "I'm obligated to the townspeople to open the pool to show them life goes on amid the ongoing war against terrorism."