As tensions in the south escalate and Operation Pillar of Defense marches on, locals are reacting with obsessive attention to news updates as well as aiming to keep life as routine as possible.

Even in the bombarded towns and cities of the south, from Beersheba, which has suffered the brunt of the rocket attacks ,and Kiryat Malachi, where three people were killed and a baby was badly injured Thursday morning, to communities within 40 kilometers of the Gaza border, people are bunking down in shelters, but keeping a close eye on their smart phones, posting video clips of incoming rockets or tweeting their current whereabouts.

One of the jokes circulating around right now (Courtesy Facebook screengrab)

One of the jokes circulating around right now (Courtesy Facebook screengrab)

As a conflict that is being chronicled by Israel’s residents in social media outlets (did you see the Facebook joke about Ahmad Jabari being in a relationship with 72 virgins, and Ehud Barak’s ‘like’?), the contact between residents in the south and the rest of the country is sustaining in some way, offering a method for dealing with the madness.

A top five list of ways to support one another right now.

Dov Lipman in Sderot earlier this week (Courtesy Dov Lipman)

Dov Lipman in Sderot earlier this week (Courtesy Dov Lipman)

1) Community activist and Knesset hopeful Rabbi Dov Lipman from Beit Shemesh has been regularly posting updates about ways to help residents in the south, from hosting them in private homes — both religious and secular — to reciting psalms for the soldiers and southern residents under attack. The Tehillim or psalm initiative is to complete reading all of Tehillim daily, at tehillim.mamash.com. If you’re interested in helping out, contact Rabbi Lipman on his Facebook page. For those who live far away and want to give financial donations, try Israelgives.org, the main portal of Israel’s nonprofit community, which connects donors to the 27,000 non-profit organizations in Israel, including those that help support the beleaguered southern communities.

Going to the movies in Sderot (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash 90)

Going to the movies in Sderot (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash 90)

2) Heading down south? While the Israel Defense Forces posted an announcement yesterday that southern residents cannot hold large gatherings — including bar and bat mitzvah parties and weddings — the Sderot Cinematheque may open this weekend, according to house manager Eli Amar, who answered the phone Thursday morning. With four to six screenings a day, seven days a week, “we don’t stop for much,” joked Amar. “And movies are a great escape.” Amar recommended checking the movie theater’s Facebook page for updates, or calling 08-684-9695. As for what’s playing tonight, options include Liam Neeson’s “Taken 2,” Palestinian Documentary “Five Broken Cameras,” and Ken Loach’s “The Angels’ Share.”

3) For some insightful reading, a few regularly updated options: The IDF blog offers some details about the operation that don’t always make it into the reported news, while the IDF Spokesperson Facebook page is another option for keeping up with the news. A third option is British Daily Mail correspondent Melanie Phillips who wrote a blog posting about her thoughts on the rocket attacks and Israel’s response. “So let’s get this clear: in the mindset of the BBC and Foreign Office, 120-plus rockets in four days is not an escalation of violence or attempted mass murder; but a targeted strike to kill two individuals who have been organising such attacks, in order to prevent them from organising any more, is an escalation. What kind of hideously warped perspective is this?”

MK Dov Khenin, behind the protest against the IDF escalation (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

MK Dov Khenin, behind the protest against the IDF escalation (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

4) On the other side of the spectrum are those protesting the escalation, including members of the Meretz, Hadash and the new Pirates Party. Hadash Knesset Member Dov Khenin is posting Facebook announcements about concurrent protests taking place at 7:00 p.m. Thursday night in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. “When will the government finally understand that after every targeted killing comes the revenge and reaction and then the operation and war?,” wrote Khenin on his Facebook page. “When will they understand that another round in the bloodshed is never a reason to party, but just a place of deep worry? We need a real and true ceasefire with Hamas and instead of talking about getting rid of Abu Mazen, we need to open a real dialogue.”

Thursday, November 15, 7:00 pm: Jabotinsky’s House (Beit Ze’ev), 38 King George, Tel Aviv; Beit HaGefen, 2 HaGefen, Haifa; Prime Minister’s Residence, Balfour Street, Jerusalem.

Keeping kids busy in the bomb shelters (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

Keeping kids busy in the bomb shelters (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

5) A rally to protest those against the escalation, “Together we win! Support for the IDF and residents of the south,” is being held Thursday afternoon at 4:00 pm – 6:00 p.m. in Paris Square at the intersection of King George, Agron and Azza Streets, a joint event of the Im Tirzu and MyIsrael organizations. According to organizers, the rally is in support of the IDF action, but as a Beersheba resident, Yair Cabbalo, commented, “Any rally needs to make it clear that this is not just about supporting the residents, but ensuring that rockets can’t hit Beersheba or any other southern community every half hour.” In addition to the rally, organizers are gathering toys, art supplies and books for the children who are spending much of their time in bomb shelters.

And a bonus 6) As the central command has ordered all large gatherings in the south to be canceled, the Cezanne Catered Events company is offering alternative venue options in the Jerusalem area. There are economic benefits for the company, to be sure, but “seeing couples organize themselves in 24 hours and be able to celebrate their happy events fills you with optimism,” said Dudu Azoulay, a Cezanne manager. “We give them a big discount, and now I have two weddings from the south, one on Sunday and one on Monday. Mazal tov.