In southern Israel, ordinary life takes the most abnormal turns
What struck me most while reporting the story on how residents of Sderot, Israel, are coping with the return of near daily rocket attacks from Gaza militants (read the story here) was just how these threats affect the seemingly normal things of life – and things that I myself like to do.
The Sderot mother I interviewed, Chana Melul, told me about a friend who loves to jog. But after the town's 'Code Red' alert (which means a rocket attack is coming) went off in the middle of her run – and she wasn't anywhere near a shelter – she gave up on running altogether. That gives you a sense of the ways in which ordinary life can be quite difficult in southern Israel.
It seems everyone has some story of a close call with a rocket. According to the study I quoted in the story, more than 90 percent of people in Sderot have been close a Qassam strike.
Another issue that really hit me while doing this story: How much things had changed in terms of chances for interaction between Israelis and Palestinians.
Ms. Melul noted that when she was growing up in Sderot, her father would sometimes go shopping in Gaza for things like shoes. And he went to a dentist there – it was a short trip and prices were cheaper than those in say, Ashkelon.
Throughout the 1970s and most of the 80s, the distance from Sderot to Gaza was short, and the areas only separated by a few flimsy checkpoints. Nowadays, of course, it's a matter of high-security fences and walls – and checkpoints structured like international crossings. Israelis have not been allowed into Gaza for several years, and Gazans generally don't come into Israel.