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This account was written just before the cease fire went into effect.

15/6/08 Sderot

Out to Sderot again this week, this time with a date to meet a family on Kibbutz Migvan. There are only about 8 urban kibbutzim in the country and this is the oldest one. Aside from not being farmers, it’s not so different from the regular kibbutzim I’ve known.

Migvan has lived for more than 20 years inside the town of Sderot, on both sides of a small street. The core group of about 20 families function as a communa: they own their street in common, houses, fleet of five or so cars, shop in common for all necessities. Another 5 or so families are connected financially in various more limited ways. The kibbutz has one branch of work, an internet solutions group. Everyone else works outside, almost all in education. The kol-bo [general shop] is unlocked. When they occasionally eat together it is pot-luck, but lunch is served in the attractive dining room every day, to the software group at least. There's a moadon [club] with sofas and TV, and a play area stocked with lots of games. There are quite a lot of kids of different ages, all playing in the street and yards when I was there in the late afternoon. The houses all have reinforced 'safe rooms'.

Just up the next street was an impact-mark from a qassam in a brick pavement. Everything around the shallow but very clearly etched mark in the bricks was blasted away at the height of about a meter and a half, parallel to the pavement. Fences, shrubbery, all simply gone. Looking at it, I made an unconscious calculation regarding the angle of the blast: 'if one was lying on the ground (anywhere but at the point of impact), one might be sort of safe, because of the way the blast goes upwards...' only now whilst writing, do I notice that this is a calculation many people in many places, over the course of many years, have made. Creepy.

But once again, the town was tranquil. I hear a lot more sirens in Be'er Sheva, given that I live not far from the emergency room of a major hospital.

Perhaps I'm just not very observant, but I don't pick up any signs of unease here. Cafés are full, shops maybe not as much, no one is obviously stressed, or fagged, or scanning the sky. In fact, to me it feels strangely lighthearted out there. Sderot has been under fire for seven years- my guess is that long ago, they found that a state of moment-to-moment oy vey! [OMG/alas!] just isn't sustainable and adds nothing to life, such as it is. There are kids around to think of too. Times I bring up the subject of the 'situation', I get shrugged off. I imagine that nights are where stress operates.

The strange thing is that Beyt Hanun [in the Gaza Strip] is only about 6k away. I wonder if any residents of either town feel the solidarity of shared fear.

Before going to Migvan I went back to the same café near the shuk [market]; the coffee there is superb. Found myself between two antithetical conversations. At the next table were three students with a tall journalist of North American origin. It wasn't exactly clear who was interviewing whom. The Sapir kids don't give an inch in the matter of excellent English to their university peers. Phrases such as 'victim mentality' and 'entire populations neglected' and 'without even the energy to protest' were bouncing around between the conversational gambits from the table I was sitting at with Shirli, X and a fat taxi driver who couldn't stop smiling.

At my working class table, 'Men should be a little better than baboons' and 'women should never let on that they're in charge' from X, and stories from a trip to 'Italia' from Shirli. The foursome at the next table are on to the history of Israeli films, exchanging emails of film librarians and experts in Tel Aviv, recommendations and warnings about certain fanatics it's best not to get involved with, but if it can't be helped… in between these scraps, X badmouths employment agents but this, it seems, is a tease, because Shirli is one and sure enough, she bit and we had a lecture about the righteous system where she works.

The kids at the next table have made a great impression on their journalist and on me, though I haven't participated in their chat as I have at my own table. They are clearly the ardent youth, the ones with opinions, emotions, sleeves to wear them on, earnestness, passion. I wonder where he found them; probably a contact through some activist organization.

There are plenty of paths I haven't yet walked in Sderot. Between some very run- down shikunim [housing blocks], I came across two middle-aged "greasers" (in Israeli slang, "arsim") working on a garden… it was another supreme example of [what I said in my first report about] the tackiness one finds in the small towns of the Negev: urns, geraniums and crazy-quilt pavements and plaster statuettes and some gerry-built benches and young cacti surrounded by whitewashed stones in rows and circles. The guys in the middle of the whole lovely balagan [mess], planting a large sapling, getting it straight. A few very scruffy kids hanging round, not actually in the garden. I doubt those guys let them in for anything. Not that there was much of a fence around their area, but there were clearly some heavily enforced contracts between the parties [probably 'If you go in that garden, you will be disassembled, right?'] because this fragile pearl of a beloved hobby was 100% blemish-free. 2mm outside the little fence is the dirtiest neighborhood in town; garbage and packed earth aren't common sights in Sderot but they were here, and the pristine kitsch of the garden set right down in the middle. Now and then one sees a simple, workable project happening. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I'll have to bring them some stuff from my plant nursery, help it grow.

At the other end of this visit, I spoke with N, a 4th-grader from the kibbutz. We spoke a little about her hobbies – piano, horseback riding – and about being afraid or not-afraid when qassams fall. She said 'IF I'm already asleep before they start, I sleep through it all. But not if they start before'. If they start early, the whole family sits in the protected room, which is her little brother T's bedroom, and the kids try to rest.

My various visits to the much-blasted town of Sderot have only reinforced my image of it as a pastoral place. If I didn't know better, I'd say 'where sheep may safely graze'... and as I've already said, it is grazing season in the western Negev.

UPDATE 19/6/08

Yesterday 18 qassams fell out there. This morning, a cease-fire has come into effect. The radio's reporters offer: 'It's quiet in Sderot. The people are on their way to work.' They don't mention that people there have gone to work every morning for the past seven-plus years.

Michal Eliav 2008 ©

Michal Eliav lives in Be'er Sheva and visits Sderot often. She is planning on making her home there. You can contact her at mihale[at]actcom[DOT]net[DOT]il (you know what to substitute for [DOT] and [at].

Original content is Copyright by the author 2008. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000594.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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