In south, two quiet years are a ‘mir­a­cle’

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY NOGA GODEIN JERUSALEM

THIS TIME, Ashkelon mayor Ita­mar Shi­moni did not wait for in­struc­tions.

As the five-day cease­fire between Is­rael and Ha­mas was breached on Tues­day af­ter­noon, he or­dered his city to re­turn to an emer­gency foot­ing, in­clud­ing open­ing public bomb shel­ters and clos­ing the beaches.

It took the IDF’s Home Front Com­mand a few hours to catch up — later in the day, it in­structed all com­mu­ni­ties within an 80km range of Gaza to re­turn to cri­sis sta­tus.

Like other lo­cal lead­ers and most of the pop­u­la­tion in Is­rael’s south, Mr Shi­moni felt let down by a pre­vi­ous, pre­cip­i­tous IDF de­ci­sion an­nounc­ing a re­turn to nor­mal ac­tiv­i­ties.

A week ago, Gen­eral Sammy Turge­man, the head of Is­rael’s South­ern Com­mand, was forced to apol­o­gise to res­i­dents of Na­hal Oz, a kib­butz bor­der­ing Gaza, for the chaos caused by the sta­tus up­dates and their can­cel­la­tion as soon as suc­ces­sive cease­fires had ex­pired. “I know that we made mis­takes in some of our an­nounce­ments,” he said.

In fact, Mr Shi­moni, in an in­ter­view last month, fore­saw just such a predica­ment. He said: “This is not a cease­fire. What is this? We are pre­pared to spend two months locked in our shel­ters in or­der to get rid of all weapons in Gaza.”

As the sec­ond-to-last cease­fire was ap­proach­ing its ex­piry, Kib­butz Ne­tiv Ha’asara’s se­cu­rity chief, Zvi Volk, said that “even a two-year pe­riod of quiet” would prove a mira- cle. “Ten years of quiet? We don’t know any - thing like that here. Ever.”

At the Ashkelon mall, Adi, a young woman at the cashier’s counter in the Aroma café, said: “I thought it was all over last week. You see th­ese peo­ple here? With their chil­dren? They’re in the mall be­cause no one can bear be­ing stuck at home for more than a month.”

Pro­fes­sor Jonathan Hup­pert, a He­brew Univer­sity ex­pert on trauma, said the sit­u­a­tion, be­ing “nei­ther pre­dictable nor con­trol­lable”, was tax­ing on many lev­els.

“Peo­ple don’t know whether their hus­bands or chil­dren are be­ing called up to re­serves again. The en­tire feel­ing is un­easy, of not be­ing able to plan even a day ahead,” he said. In Ne­tiv Ha’asara, the un­cer­tainty was made plain in the car park. For an en­tire month, with the moshav’s pop­u­la­tion having fled to north, the car park re­mained va­cant. Last week, a ten­ta­tive trickle of ve­hi­cles ap­peared, of­ten un­load­ing chil­dren ea­ger to see their homes and their friends. On Wed­ness­day, the car park had emp­tied once again.


An IDF sol­dier prays

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