SDEROT — The skies above Sderot may have been quiet for the first time in two months on Wednesday, the first day of the open-ended ceasefire, but inside, residents in the relentlessly rocket-battered Gaza border town were seething at what they consider a half-finished operation that changed nothing from the situation before Operation Protective Edge.
“I have no faith in this ceasefire; [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] has no influence there at all,” said Keren Turgeman. “Look at the people living on the border of Gaza where rockets are falling like rain. They need to put an end to this. With all of the pain of soldiers dying, we must go and occupy Gaza completely.”
Turgeman lost her job this summer after being too scared to leave her home to go to work. For the time being, the seven-year Sderot resident says she is staying in the area, but the moment the next round of fighting begins, she will leave. “I’m still so scared, I don’t believe in this ceasefire,” she said. “You can’t raise kids here. I have a year-old daughter and she understands when we have to grab her and run that something is not okay. But people are in debt and they can’t leave, they don’t know what to do.”
On Wednesday, Sderot was eerily quiet for a weekday afternoon. Some people began to trickle into coffee shops and stores around the downtown area, but many stores in the shuk were closed as war-weary residents weighed whether or not to trust the 12th truce attempt of the summer.
“You should have been here yesterday. Yesterday was terrible. There must have been 10 code red alerts, one right after the other,” said Sian Avner, the owner of Sian’s Bakery in Sderot.
Behind him, half a dozen shops in the shuk were shuttered. “There’s no foot traffic, so there’s no reason for people to open,” said Avner. Though today might be quiet, he said, everyone believes the rockets will return at any moment. “You can’t sleep, so you’re just always exhausted. You don’t feel like eating. I’m still in trauma. Every time the door slams I jump, every time I hear a bus going by I think it’s the shriek of a rocket.”
Now, of course, there’s also a new fear of tunnels from Gaza. “I’m worried I’ll be strolling one evening and a terrorist will pop out of the ground,” he said.
“I hope there will be real peace and not this ‘quiet’ that they’re talking about,” said Simcha Nagar.
Nagar, a retired social worker, was helping out at Avner’s bakery just to get out of the house and interact with people. After finishing her volunteer shift, she was on her way to the pharmacy to get a refill for six medications she takes that are associated with stress, from high blood pressure to insomnia. “I never used to go to the doctor’s before; now look at all these medicines I’m taking,” she said, brandishing a long list of prescriptions and a referral for a psychologist.
Many residents were furious at the government. “Bibi came out weak, his approval rating went from 85% to 28%, every single day it went down,” said Dubi, the manager of a supermarket in Sderot. “We lost 64 soldiers and nothing happened. No political agreement, no peace. Okay, we destroyed some tunnels. We killed some Hamas leaders. But I want quiet.”
“We’re getting to the point where suddenly the center of the country is starting to understand what we’re going through,” said Shimon Kadvig, a resident of Kiryat Malachi who works at the same supermarket. “If I am sitting and drinking coffee with my wife at night, I always have to think about where we can run to, who grabs what kids. I have six kids, two sets of twins, so we have to have a plan.”
“We’re in the same situation that we were at the beginning of this war, and before the last war and the war before that,” Kadvig added. “It needs to be like the West Bank: We need to control the entire Strip.”
“On the one side, we don’t want soldiers to die, but on the other side, we’re exhausted by 14 years of them shooting rockets at us,” said Edi Saidov, the owner of a jewelry store here. He sat chain smoking cigarettes while waiting for customers to trickle in, though the streets of the downtown were mostly empty. During the entire day, only three people had entered his store, and this reporter was one of them.
Like many other people, including politicians, Saidov was against the ceasefire that went into effect on Tuesday at 7 pm. “We don’t know who we signed with. There won’t be true peace, real peace. I’m against this type of ‘peace’ that we have now. It’s a shame they didn’t finish the war to the end, it’s a shame there’s no political solution,” Saidov said. “We’re just waiting for the next war. I’m really sad that these soldiers died for nothing.”