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Nearly a year since Operation Cast Lead, Sderot is flourishing. The city, which absorbed barrages of Qassam and Grad rockets as well as mortar fire before and during the Gaza war, has no vacant rental apartments; real estate prices have risen dozens of percentage points, investors are returning in large numbers, and the first shopping mall to feature brand name chain stores is under construction.

Two years ago, when rockets were still raining down all over town, Ariel, a businessman from the southern part of the country, bought three apartments for $25,000 each.

"Prices were very low; we knew that the Qassams would stop at some point, and quiet would be restored to the streets," he said.

Today Ariel says that the investment in the city during hard times is bearing fruit in good ones; the apartments are now worth $45,000 each.

"Apartment prices in town have risen 40 per cent, and there are properties that have doubled in value," Yaakov Levy of Bayit Vegan realty said. "The reason is that quiet that has returned to Sderot after eight years."

Levy says that the dramatic rise in demand for rentals has created a zero vacancy rate: "I can't remember a situation like this ever. For eight years, no high-rises have been constructed. Now the population has grown a lot, and people are moving to the city from other places but there is no new construction."

Things are jumping in the realty office of Alex Aviram and David Gilboa. The supply is limited and demand is high, they say. Rents have risen and sale prices are climbing, but prices in Sderot are still lower than in other parts of the country.

They add that those who were impatient and sold their apartments during the time of the Qassams lost tens of thousands of shekels. Apartments that once rented for NIS 900-1,000 a month will now go for NIS 1,400-1,500.

Aviram and Gilboa estimate that apartment prices will continue to rise by another 50 percent in the next year. The reason, they say, is the lack of supply. They put demand at three times what's currently on the market.

Mayor David Buskila confirms that Sderot is booming. Four hundred people recently signed up to bid on 44 plots of land.

"The security situation was the most important factor why developers did not want to build in Sderot," Buskila said. "There is no doubt that the steps taken to improve the quality of life in the city, such as the new parks and sanitation, have led people, especially young couples living outside Sderot, to want to come and build a life in the city."