On Wednesday evening, a house in a quiet neighborhood of single-family homes in Be'er Sheva took a direct hit from a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. It smashed windows and shattered roof tiles, the usual routine. The inhabitants had escaped unscathed, after hiding in a reinforced room. Neighbors rallied in disappointment and anger: "What's with the cease-fire?" they grumbled. They were utterly certain: The truce will be broken, the quiet is temporary at best.
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The cease-fire was not celebrated anywhere on Wednesday. Some of the people we spoke to were convinced that had the government only decided to make full use of Israel's military might there would be quiet here for 40 years. Others concluded pessimistically that there is no solution.
"This is a cease-fire for a limited time," said one neighbor. "We have to learn to live with this situation."
Two and half hours earlier, five casualties arrived at Soroka Medical Center. On the sidewalk outside the hospital, alongside the medical team awaiting the military ambulance, was a crowd of people who wanted to see the horror of the war with their own eyes: patients who had stepped outside for a smoke, family members, a large group of Bedouin teenagers, as well as journalists and a delegation of Orthodox rabbis from the Rabbinical Council of America who happened to be visiting.
Two of the casualties, in critical condition, had arrived by helicopter minutes earlier; three more were expected. When flashing red lights were seen in the distance the photographers got into position, the rabbis started reading Psalms and everyone else pressed up against the back door of the ambulance to see what they could see. Three soldiers were transferred to gurneys, dazzled by the camera flashes.
"Our children will continue to wet their beds at night because of Netanyahu's political considerations," someone explained to the rabbis. Mansour Abu Siam came with this wife. She had a car accident when the siren caught her on the road to the Bedouin locale of Rahat.
"The car is kaput, he said, but his wife is fine. Isaac Hatton, a medical student at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, lives with his wife across the street from the house that was hit.
He gave the cease-fire "maybe a week," explaining: "I come from Northern Ireland," he said. "There we had decades of conflict and today there is peace. Here the conflict is a lot more deeply rooted. Here everything is much bigger."