Haifa springs tentatively back to life as rocket fire ceases

Yelena Ainbinder reopened her clothing store on top of Haifa's Mount Carmel Monday for the first time since she closed it on July 16, the day a Hizbullah rocket killed eight Israel Railways employees in the coastal city. "It's good to be back," the tall shop owner said as she rang up a sale on Tuesday. It was her second day back after spending more than two weeks at home, glued to the television news. Business has been brisk, she said, as a Katyusha has not fallen on the city in nearly a week. Customers have actually told her, "Thank God you're open," Ainbinder said. Ainbinder said her store would be an especially dangerous place if the rockets were still falling. "I'm surrounded by glass," she said, pointing to large windows on the back wall and the front of the store. Looking at the racks of clothing in the plaza outside, she said, "Half of my merchandise is on the sidewalk." Ainbinder was among the many residents of the country's third largest city who are ignoring Home Front Command instructions to stay indoors, returning instead to the life they knew before the attacks from Lebanon began more than two weeks ago. Many stores reopened on Monday and Tuesday. A number of merchants posted signs on the street to advertise that fact. Parking lots were mostly full and there were even a few traffic jams. Many people who fled south have now returned home. Among them is Moshe Naman, who stood Tuesday with his hands on a baby carriage holding his sleeping son, Uri. His restless four-year-old daughter tried to pull him away. Naman's family returned Monday from Mercaz Shapira near Kiryat Malachi, where they had fled following the July 16 attacks. He's hopeful that the sudden peace in the city during the IAF's 48-hours suspension of airstrikes is a sign that the danger has passed. He takes comfort in the the fact that his wife, who works as a prosecutor, was asked to return to work. Still, as a cautious parent, he passed on the park, taking his children instead to an underground play center the city has set up on the second floor of a parking garage. Under the multiple levels of concrete, even if a warning siren did ring out, it would be impossible to hear it. Instead of the usual parked cars, children screamed in fun and chased each other across the pavement. Some drew pictures and others watched television. A few tried out hula hoops. Sgt. Tammie Gourevitch, one of the soldiers manning the site, said that the number of children in the shelter was half that of the previous day. The sudden lull in attacks was not the only thing motivating people to go out. Some were simply tired of being home. Sari Zimmerman returned to the city on Saturday with her daughter because she wanted to sleep in her own bed. On Monday, she returned to her job in another clothing store that had been closed since July 16. However, some things have changed, she said. "We're opening earlier and closing later," she said, adding, "but there is a feeling of hope in the air."