This week, during a friendly meeting with Dr. Adriana Katz, director of the Mental Health Center, a new term was heard – ‘Optimistic Anxiety’. According to her, since the beginning of ‘Operation Cast Lead’, the recent hundreds of anxiety victims aren’t characterized with anger. “The victims have a hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. For the first time in 8 years of fired Qassam Missiles, the people of Sderot feel that they are a part of Israel. Something is being done. A military operation is taking place in Gaza”.

After a crazy week of hundreds of missiles which were fired from Gaza towards southern Israel, after tens of debriefings and guided tours to foreign reporters, and after an interview to South Africa’s Sunday Times which ended half an hour before the commencement of the Shabbat, I finally had the chance to take a walk in the streets of Sderot on Saturday and take a look around (after planning my route and basing it on nearby protected spaces which I’ll be able to reach in 15 seconds).

I noticed something new about the city – new colors, blue and white. Israeli flags are waving everywhere – On the fences, walls, houses, street poles, military vehicles, ambulances, police cars, and yes, also on the car of the police sapper, who comes to collect the remains of the Qassams.

Photo: Hamutal Ben Shitrit

It felt just like Independence Day, but the streets were empty, except for a few “Lev Echad” (a community crisis aid organization) volunteers who are working in shelters and protected spaces, and except for worshippers who were on their way from or to the synagogue.

At 11:30 A.M, Saturday morning, I woke up from my utopian dream of independence and returned to reality, as the “Red Color” alert went off across the city. I found myself counting down 15 seconds, while taking cover inside a protected room with the 5 children of the Braha family. The youngest child is half a year old, and the oldest one is 10. Yanai, the 3 year old child, started reciting a song from Tehilim (Psalms) which he knows by heart, and all I could do is wish that the missile won’t land nearby. The children in the kindergartens of Sderot and the Gaza Region have learned to count down 15 seconds when the “Red Color” alarm goes off, and when they finish the countdown, they start singing loudly, so they won’t hear the nearby explosion.

“The residents of the extended western Negev can learn a lot about social strength and adapting to such a crazy reality from residents of Sderot” – Says Dr. Katz, as she spoke about the anxiety, confusion and shock that are raging in her home city, Ashkelon.

A lot of equations are running through my mind, as the fighting in Gaza continues and the results are unclear: The Gazan missiles are now threatening the lives of over a million Israeli citizens – What will happen when the threat will be minimized again to short / medium range Qassam missiles, and only 45,000 citizens in Sderot and the Gaza Region will be under the Qassam threat? Or will the awaited solution solve their problem as well?

To those who demand a “ceasefire”, a few facts:

In the past 2 years, Israel and the Hamas had 2 ceasefires:

The 1st one took place from the 26th of November 2006 to the 15th of May 2007. According to the IDF’s spokesperson, during that “ceasefire”, 315 missiles were fired from Gaza towards Israel.

The 2nd one took place from the 19th of June 2008 to the 19th of December 2008. During that ceasefire, 415 missiles were fired from Gaza towards Israel, and the missiles which were fired towards the cities of Ashdod and Be’er Sheva were smuggled from Iran.

Perhaps after a 3rd ceasefire, the smuggled Iranian missiles would be able to reach Tel Aviv, or the Ben Gurion airport? Or perhaps the people who demand a ceasefire have a financial interest, derived from the loss of 2.6 billion dollars in trades between Gazan firms and Israeli companies?

Will we see the same Israeli flags proudly waving in Israel’s 61st Independence Day?

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Noam Bedein is a director of the Sderot Media Center. It is a media advocacy center which portrays the human face of Sderot and southern Israel under siege, to the international media and public. Noam, a native of Tzfat, grew up in Efrat, Israel. After finishing the Beit El Yeshiva High School, Noam learned at a pre-Army training program in the Jordan Valley and then served for three years as an IDF sergeant for an artillery scout unit along the Lebanese border. After the army, Noam served as an emissary for The Jewish Agency in Boston, Massachusetts and then traveled for a year in the Far East. Upon his return to Israel, Noam relocated to Sderot and pioneered the “Sderot Media Center for the Western Negev Ltd", which has spawned the Sderot Media Center. In this position, Noam is a photojournalist, lecturer and gives briefings to foreign government officials, embassies, foreign press and student groups from around the world.


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