Sderot Life Edges Toward Normal, as Residents Poised for Next Color Red

Elyasi Aziz permitted himself to stroll along Sderot's streets yesterday. He has worked for the city's sanitation department for 15 years, and this past year has been disruptive. "I work under pressure, sweep fast and move to the next spot. Always next to a migunit for shelter," Aziz says, referring to the hollow concrete structures dispersed throughout the city for protection against rocket fire from Gaza. "I keep looking upward, don't wear earphones so I can hear the Color Red alert. I'm slightly calmer today," he said, but added: "I'll be relaxed until the next Color Red. I don't believe in the tahadiyeh."

Sderot's city center was swarming yesterday with Israeli and foreign press. Everyone wanted to hear what the locals had to say about "the peace that has arrived," as one foreign journalist put it. But the Sderot folks sounded pessimistic, like they didn't want this agreement.

Yair Dahan spoke for the minority, with a glint in his eyes and joy in his heart: "This is a day of happiness and independence for Sderot. We should declare a work holiday and have a big party throughout the city. The city has been reborn. Joy strengthens the agreement, joy brings more joy."

Dahan said the truce's fate is in the hands of civilians on both sides.

"We need to push the leaders to make more agreements. Just let people on both sides get a taste of life and they'll push for agreements," he predicted.

Despite the pessimistic majority, there were signs that the city was indeed returning to normal. Many children could be seen walking around town, without parental chaperons. Police officers stationed at the city entrance were pulling over drivers for not wearing seat belts, an offense overlooked in times of escalation so drivers could make it to a safe place in time.

Earlier yesterday, Yankale Levy of Kibbutz Nahal Oz went for his morning walk. No mortar silenced the birdsong, smoke did not hide the sunshine. "This morning it's quiet, and let's hope it continues," he said, but added skeptically, "Two weeks have to pass before we know if the tahadiyeh is serious."