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Southern Israel residents scared but determined

Associated Press Published: November 18, 2012
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"We've got all the time in the world to wait this out. And it will go on until the other side understands that there can be no more fire toward our cities," he said. "We are victims of terror, of crimes against humanity. We are innocent people who have harmed no one and are being attacked for no reason."

The moment she heard Israel had launched its Gaza campaign by assassinating the Hamas military commander last week, manicurist Adi Cherry called her salon saying she would not be going back to work. For five days she never left home, sleeping in the family shelter with her husband and 5-year-old daughter, Osher.

"She watches the news. She knows what's going on. She counts the booms she hears outside," Cherry said of her daughter. "But I have anxieties. I'm deathly scared."

On Sunday, she finally built up enough courage to return to work at the mall. There were barely any customers, but it was still busier than it had been in recent days.

Cherry couldn't relax, constantly checking her "Code Red" iPhone application that tracks where air raid sirens were sounding to warn of impending rocket strikes. Nearby were signs to the closest shelter.

"Yesterday I couldn't even go to the bathroom," she said. "Nearly every time I got to the door I heard a siren."

At the adjacent Aroma coffee shop, 15-year-old Shir Damari was enjoying a chocolate shake.

"It's my first time out of the house. I'm going crazy there. It's so boring and I'm getting fat because all I do is eat," the 10th-grader said. "I want to get out and see the world, but there is nowhere to go."

A few minutes later, the siren sounded. The Aroma waiters ushered Damari and others into the shelter.

"I'm so scared," she said.

Police said two people were slightly wounded in Sunday's attack. Afterward, the few shops that were open began shutting down, some out of fear, others for lack of clients.

The big-screen TV in the Foto Life shop blared news of the latest strike.

"It landed right next to my mom's place. She said the whole building shook," said Etti Gabai, a 45-year-old clerk. "She's not well. She had to take some anxiety pills to calm down."

At the Castro clothing store, one of the few shops to remain open, employees turned to the only topic in town.

Eden Lankri, a 21-year-old saleswoman, said she has been largely confined to her room and, making matters worse, her boyfriend had been called up for military reserve duty. Even so, she hoped the offensive would continue.

"We don't want a cease-fire yet. We can continue to absorb it all so long as eventually it will stop once and for all," she said. "If we stop now it will be a waste. There have to be results this time."

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Follow Heller on Twitter (at)aronhellerap