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Even though kibbutz members are known for their stalwart character, it turns out that during Operation Cast Lead there was a mass exodus, while residents of Sderot, often lambasted for 'complaints,' stood their ground.

Data received by Haaretz suggests that kibbutz residents in areas bordering the Gaza Strip fled the area en masse, while residents of Sderot actively opted to stay, in spite the frequent rocket attacks from Gaza.

As early as the first week of fighting, most of the residents of the kibbutzim in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council had left the area. On December 31, only 56 percent of the residents in the regional council had stayed, compared to 70 percent of the residents of nearby Sderot.

At the same time, 57 percent of the residents in the Eshkol Regional Council remained in their homes, and only 48 percent of locals in the Ashkelon Regional Council stayed put.

Statistics of the behavior of civilians under attack in the recent fighting in the south were collected by the Home Front Command and members of the Israel Defense Forces liaison unit responsible for links between the local authority and the residents.

On January 1, as the fighting worsened, more residents in kibbutzim left the area, and in Sha'ar Hanegev, for example, only 41 percent of the civilians remained. In contrast, in Sderot, the number of residents who stayed in the city rose to 73 percent.

One of the explanations offered for the apparent steadfastness of the Sderot residents compared to those in kibbutzim is that the residents of the kibbutzim had somewhere to go to - as part of an initiative of the Kibbutz Movement to relocate them to kibbutzim in the north.

At the kibbutzim they cited the exodus to the lack of sufficient bomb shelters, explaining that under such circumstances they opted to send their children north.