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19/5/08 sderot

No sensational events, not even a little one. I'll admit that this morning, after having walked the first block towards the central station on my way to Sderot, I suddenly realized that I wasn't carrying my identity card. I walked back for it, with the obvious thought that if anything should come down, it would be better...

It's the crescendo of the beauty season in the western Negev [the desert] now, better even than the poppy season. This season starts shyly and then ends all at once, as if it never was. But now, before the day on which all this will turn to a stark yellow, the landscape is composed of the dusty browns and muted ochers, the darkling cypress rows, the pastel silver, faded greens, the translucent air and the pale sky over all.

Negev shapes are stunning: square fields of deep green and yellow sunflowers, cubes of light-drenched green and gold hay in lines on the more intense gold of the stubble. Their shadows in a line next to and under them. The used look of the camels, hobbled against this enormous sky. The undulation of the earth itself; yielding waves bearing moshavim [cooperative farming villages] generously spaced. Daggering cypress skyward and dangling wavelets of eucalyptus earthward. The shape of its nest and the crisp shape of the crow, sitting swaying a meter above it. It is grazing season now, flocks are all around.

These are really nice roads [25, 232] and Egged [Israeli bus company] makes the most of them. I took the milk-run with the soldiers, past Sdei Teiman air base, so cute and retro. Past Eshel HaNasi agricultural school and the agave plantation at Mishmar HaNegev junction. Later, past kibbutzim [collective villages] Sa'ad and Mifalsim. The landscape of these roads is a sexy combination of spare, austere, modest, pastoral and lush.

And the names are magic; listen: Tifrach, Ta'ashur, Shibolim, Sharsheret, Melililot, Beit HaGdi, Takuma, Zimrat, Kfar 'Aza, Nir Am, Nir Oz!

There was a long detour through Netivot. Can't say why, but there's a tendency to heavy kitsch in the world of private architecture in these small towns. Not just plaster lions at the gates, but plaster Yorkies and pugs- I kid you not.

Netivot is a very evidently religious town, from the names on the streets [list available on request] to the dress of the citizens, to the adverts and such. It's a town one could visit in simple, wearable disguise, as long as one remembers to wash hands and murmur certain things before, say, eating in public. Could be an interesting experience for a few days, what?

I walked Sderot all around the NW and central areas; enjoying quite a number of eccentric and mostly cheery examples of seriously brash exterior dťcor. The colors are shocking too: because there are so many trees flowering right now, the streets are liberally awash in jacaranda purple and quite a few different shades of gold. Here and there a pomegranate in furious flower, there and here a glowing bougainvillea. The edge of town has (going east): the washed-out palette of Negev/lLachish hills on the left, and the tropically hued town on the right.

The air and light are at their best now too. The western Negev is never so capricious than in Iyyar [first summer month of the Jewish calendar]Ö the warming sun and the lyric breeze pet one simultaneously. People in Sderot definitely look and smile at each other more than in Be'er Sheva - whether that is a function of the weather, the small size of the town, or an effect of being under fire, I couldn't say. Probably some of each.

I know, part of this has to be about security issues. I get carried away.

So: shelters. There are many, many small wee shelters all about, one at each bus stop and more near public spaces. These are neatly painted, reinforced concrete structures, one room with a tiny window, about 2 square meters. The entrance is what, staggered, baffled, right? -- being sort of elbowed and having no actual door on hinges. There is a metal overhang and the rear wall is somewhat concave, as seen from the outside. Each shelterette has a comfortable metal-mesh bench outside and a sign requesting the public's cooperation in keeping it clean. The one I went into was not very clean.

I stopped for a coffee at an informal place. Meir said that the insurance people are very quick, and damage is repaired almost immediately. Ya'akov mentioned tile roofs versus 'protected' houses. The guy who made the excellent coffee welcomed me and said "If there's a 'red', take shelter under the nearest building, especially one more than one floor high." I drank my coffee with one Haviv, a native (he says) 75 years old. Haviv says that if the Hamas doesn't lighten up and fast, there will be out-and-out war over there in about three months. He wouldn't say more than that.

There were a few places which looked scorched and bent, but 'The Red Balloon' is on at the Cinemateque, so clearly hope's not dead.

It would have been a grave sin if qassamim had ruined such a perfect day Ė now I'm being flip, but after a day in Sderot in May of 2008 it is so lovely to be feeling flip!

I had an excellent lunch at 'Melech HaFelafel' and spoke with four young guys at the next table. Two of them originally from Sderot, in town for rehearsals of some ceremony. They said the town is going down the tubes, and are involved in some group of 'Negev Renewal' to try to organize the people. Oren said his parents are moving to Be'er Sheva, as he has already done. They didn't have time to talk, unfortunate. Itzik made a joke about rising prices under qassamim.

I was in a couple of youth centers and there is plenty happening even without the Sapir College in town. Sapir is famous for the communications faculty; their bulletin boards are lots of fun, even now.

I conscientiously also walked through Sderot's only large shopping mall; it's the usual franchise branches; not a whiff of poetry to their names: Super-pharm, Macdonald's, Ace.

I'm going to have to get out there on a less than perfect day; to see what the human atmosphere is like. What I ideally wanted today was to witness a qassam from a nice safe distance, one without casualties, so I'd have something to report ...

Mihal Eliav

Mihal Eliav is hoping to make her home in Sderot

Original content is Copyright by the author 2008. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000581.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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