At first glance, the small desert town of Sderot, Israel, has almost nothing in common with Seattle, the rainy U.S. city that gave birth to grunge music and is more than 6,000 miles across the globe.
Sderot is know to some as the "Bomb Shelter Capital of the World." The town of about 24,000 has for years been hit by rocket and mortar attacks from the neighboring Gaza Strip.
But, as Laura Bialis, an Israeli filmmaker who grew up in California, discovered, there is far more to Sderot than the headlines suggest. The city has long been home to a thriving music scene that blends cultures and sounds from North Africa and the Middle East.
"I heard about this town in southern Israel that had been targeted for, at that point, like, seven years of rocket attacks," she said. "When I started searching for information about the town, I found out it was like a Seattle or Liverpool of Israel. It produced all these great rock bands. It made a significant impact on Israeli culture."
Bialis traveled to Sderot to hear more for herself. The result is Rock in the Red Zone, a new critically acclaimed documentary that explores how music fosters strength and unity in a community dealing with the consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For Bialis, the experience was so powerful that she decided to move to Sderot permanently.
Refinery29 spoke with Bialis to learn more about the power of music, peaceful solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and her unforgettable journey in Sderot. Click through to hear her answers and see photos that capture the impact music has on the community. The film, which opened in New York last month, hits theaters in Los Angeles this week. For more information, visit the Rock in the Red Zone website.
Opener: Photographed by Jennifer Avello.