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Gaza front: Civilians reliving the horror in Sderot and Ashkelon
By BEN HARTMAN
14/03/2014
The routine of frequent school closures and warnings from the Home Front Command to stay near bomb shelters had all but disappeared after well over a year of quiet following Operation Pillar of Defense.
 
It was a bitter feeling of deja vu for residents of the South this week as Gazans fired nearly 70 rockets into Israel after well over a year of quiet following Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.

“You got used to living this certain type of life. I’d take the kids and go everywhere over the past year, after years where I worried every time I left the house with the kids, always wondering where to run if there’s a rocket alarm,” said Shlomi, the manager of a kiosk in central Sderot and a father of two toddlers.

Shlomi, a lifelong resident of the city, said the past two days “brought back something you forgot, you say to yourself, ‘Oh yeah, a code red [rocket alarm], I forgot about those.’” Since Pillar of Defense there has been sporadic rocket fire on the South from time to time. In the past two days, though, there were many rockets and mortar shells fired into Israel, including more than three dozen on Wednesday.

The routine of frequent school closures and warnings from the Home Front Command to stay near bomb shelters had all but disappeared, until Wednesday afternoon brought the trauma back.

“It was a night of explosions, sirens, helicopters and thunder, none of us slept,” said Adi, a mother of three in Sderot, on Thursday.

When asked about her children, four, seven and nine years old, she said that when they were younger they became accustomed to the rocket strikes, but that “they got used to the last year of quiet, so for them it was more shocking now than in past times of escalation.”

As of Thursday evening, schools in the South had not canceled their Friday morning classes, though in Ashdod schools were closed early on Thursday and parents told to take their youngsters home early as a rocket hit outside the city. Friday’s Purim parties remained in question.

In Ashkelon, where a rocket struck on the city’s outskirts on Thursday, things seemed to be moving a bit slower than normal, though that may have been because of the heavy rain.

Inside a shopping mall next to city hall, shoppers lined up to buy Purim costumes at kiosks and stores and the building did not seem gripped by a sense of fear or panic.

At a party store, a cashier named Natali said the city “is used to this by now,” and that she didn’t feel like the last year was one of total peace and quiet.

“It wasn’t quiet this whole time, there were a lot of rockets here and there, it just didn’t always make the news,” she said.

Amid the biggest rocket barrage in more than year, one resident of Ashkelon expressed a common feeling in the South – this is a situation locals are used to, but one that is still traumatic when the rockets begin coming en masse.

“We got used to it, though there are people who are in panic, it depends on who you ask,” said Tikva Sidansky, a 65-year-old grandmother closing up her fabric store and leaving to pick up her grandchildren.

Despite the familiarity with the situation, she admitted “the last time [Pillar of Defense] was real trauma. I just hope that doesn’t come back, that we have quiet.”
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