Half the people of Kibbutz Mefalsim, a communal settlement two kilometres from Gaza, have gone to safer places in Israel. The 400 mainly Argentinean Israelis who stayed are only slightly optimistic that the ceasefire will hold.
They are glued to the radio for news updates, mostly at home. Each house has a bomb shelter, with others scattered around.
Director of Emergencies Claudio Mairovich told us: “In terms of security, nothing has changed. Our experience tells us that this ceasefire is like trying to start an engine that has been stopped for a long time. It takes some time. Ceasefires are generally broken, then a couple of hours or days pass… We’re realistic about security and wait to see how the truce develops.”
None of the recent rockets launched from Gaza hit the kibbutz, but no one is taking safety for granted.
Showing us around, Mairovich said: “These shelters were built some time ago. They are close to the bus stop where the children leave for school every morning. We’ve added more and more of these shelters. We need enough to protect 40 to 50 kids. Being this close to Gaza we just have seven seconds between hearing the alarm and a rocket landing in the kibbutz.”
One fell while the Israeli Operation Cast Lead was going on four years ago, hitting the collective dining hall. Mefalsim has been here practically since modern Israel was founded in 1948. The current Operation Pillar of Defence felt familiar.
Our correspondent in Israel, Luis Carballo, said: “Since 1949, this kibbutz just two kilometres from Gaza has seen a lot of wars – followed by ceasefires that are broken. It’s almost always the same story. Experience reminds the kibbutz members that agreements on paper don’t always match reality. This kibbutz, like all of them in this area, is staying on maximum alert.”