Residents of the south woke on Thursday to the first day of a fragile truce between Israel and Hamas. Schools within 40 kilometers of Gaza were still shut, on orders from the Home Front Command, and several false rocket alerts sounded in the morning. But as the day wore on, the region began coming back to life: Roads, cafes and malls filled up.
Nevertheless, one concern was on everyone's lips: How much compensation would they receive? Thousands of businesses were shut down during the seven days of Operation Pillar of Defense, and thousands of workers were unable to go to work. The government will pay them some compensation, but how much is an open question.
Oshri Biton, who owns a shop in Netivot, said the compensation ought to be generous, as southern businesses have been hurt not only by the latest operation, but by repeated bouts of escalation in recent years. While the Home Front Command didn't order businesses to close, he added, in practice, the nonstop rocket fire made opening impractical. And even those that did open had no customers.
Farmers said their fields and orchards suffered huge and sometimes irreversible damage from the hail of rockets and mortars. But their experience with compensation after past operations left them pessimistic.
"After Cast Lead [in 2009], the government paid us compensation that didn't cover even half our damages," said a farmer from the Eshkol region, who asked to remain anonymous. Strengthening Gaza-area communities "begins with suitable compensation," he added. "Because if compensation isn't given, the farmers will give up and leave ... And we've learned that everything begins and ends with the strength of the population."
In Sderot, residents were enjoying the quiet, yet many opposed the cease-fire, deeming it premature. "It's important to tell the government, 'You could have done more, and thereby prevented [more] rockets in another two weeks," said Uri, a local resident. "But now," he added, "it's time for the finance minister to show the same enthusiasm with which he greeted the operation in transferring money to business owners and residents who didn't go to work because of the operation."