Lull in violence provides little relief for Gaza border residents

Southern population sees no light at the end of the tunnel.

Israelis run for shelter as a siren sounds during a rocket attack at the southern city of Sderot July 14, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
Israelis run for shelter as a siren sounds during a rocket attack at the southern city of Sderot July 14, 2018
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
The recent lull in violence and talks regarding a truce between Israel and Gaza do not constitute any great light at the end of the tunnel for residents of the Gaza border communities, according to the hundreds who took to Tel Aviv’s streets for the past two weekends to call on the government to end the cycle of violence more decisively.
“What we are trying to achieve with these protests is quiet,” Kibbutz Kfar Aza resident Simha Ben-Yousef told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night. “It can’t be that for the past 17 years we are in the same story – war, calm, dribs and drabs [of violence] – we are in the same situation all the time.”
“Is there anyone who really believes there will truly be quiet now? So there will be calm for a month, two months, a year – and even calm is a relative calm. You must understand that for us there is not really quiet. Even when there aren’t Qassam rockets we are always on tenterhooks. It’s just a matter of time until it happens again. For instance, when I go on a walk around my kibbutz, I don’t really know whether or not there will be a Qassam. You don’t know when it will start again – and you know it will start again.”
If they reach an agreement now, she said it must be a long-standing one. “There is no reason why my grandson shouldn’t be able to visit me,” Ben-Yousef said.
Questioned over action taken by the government, Ben-Yousef said: “They are not doing anything. I know that from their point of view we are not important enough. It is happening in an area that is quite disconnected. There are no disturbances in the center or in the state’s daily life – but I live in the State of Israel.”
“I don’t think we should continue living like this… for many years we took it and we were quiet – 17 years – no other area has taken so much for so long. And there is still no hope that there will be a solution,” Ben-Yousef continued. “Even if they told us it would be another three years and that’s it, we would accept it. But it won’t happen. The same ritual repeats again and again.”
A group of students from Sapir College, located near Sderot, were among the protesters. Nir Tal, chairman of the college’s student council, is originally from Modi’in but has lived in Sderot for the past four years. “As we live in the area we feel the need to come and sound our voices, and call on the government to invest more money in the South and to provide residents with security,” he said.
Tal noted the number of students at the college is decreasing every year due to the security situation, which he says is a strategic mistake on behalf of the government.
“We are the ones who are developing the area, the young people who come and contribute to the area and volunteer – and it’s important that they provide solutions. After Operation Protective Edge, there were housing grants for students out of an understanding that they want them to come and stay in the area.”
Both Tal and Ben-Yousef opined not enough people from the center came to the protest to express solidarity.
“People must understand that today the war affects us, but tomorrow it will reach Tel Aviv as it has in the past,” Tal said. “We are part of the country, this shouldn’t be a protest of the residents of the South.”
Maya from Netivot is also a member of the student council. She told the Post: “We’re here because we want the State of Israel to give us a solution because we don’t know what’s going on – we don’t know what’s going to happen. We hear bombs all the time and since March, we have had fires every day and our lives are at risk. We want the State of Israel to give us a solution for a peaceful life. It’s not a privilege it’s a basic right that every person in Israel deserves.”
During Saturday night’s demonstration, protesters waved colorful balloons to symbolize the vast swaths of Israeli land burned by incendiary balloons and kites launched from Gaza in recent months and staged simulations of the siren, lying down on the ground with their hands covering their heads, as they have had to do countless times as rockets and mortar shells launched from Gaza have pounded their communities.
During one of the sirens, a Beersheba resident observed a Tel Avivian’s dog barking.
“You can imagine what it’s like in the South. The dogs hide under the tables during the sirens,” he said.
Tammi Artzi, a Tel Aviv resident who came to show her solidarity with the residents of the South told the Post: “The government needs to stop the rockets, kites and balloons.” When asked what action she thinks the government should take, she said, “It’s not for me to say how but the current situation is hurting both sides [Israel and Gaza].”
Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay also attended the pro test and said,“Four years since Operation Protective Edge, and this government has done nothing to prevent the current situation in the South.”
“In the choice between an agreement and another redundant operation, we are in favor of an agreement,” Gabbay said. “Both because an agreement is better for the residents and also because we do not trust the Bibi-Bennett-Liberman trio to conduct another operation – we saw how they managed Operation Protective Edge.”