[ This post is related to Yafa's Gaza memories film online on november 26 ]

The people at Yafa's hair salon, just like any other gathering place in Sderot, always have stories to tell about the good old days. The days when they used to go to Gaza freely, to shop, get their hair cut, eat at restaurants, even go out fishing. Back then, most of Sderot's people were immigrants or sons of immigrants from Morocco, and they all spoke some Arabic. Today these memories are laced with suspicion and fear.

Yafa remembers Saturdays at a beach side restaurant with her then fiancé. Gazan friends came to her wedding. Back when she was a child, her uncle "used to bring the Arabs from Gaza, the little ones, seven or eight years old, he would go to their parents and take them from their homes. Their families would know that their kids are with Abu Haim. He raised them till they were 30 or 40. I remember one called Halil, he was like family".

I grew up in the center of Israel, near Tel Aviv, where we seldom met real-life Palestinians. To me, what the people of Sderot are saying sounds a bit like how a master would remember his subordinate—friendly, nostalgic, but always above. Indeed, most of Sderot is politically right wing, prodding our government to make no concessions. In contrast, the people I grew up with and whose example I followed, left wing liberals of European descent, had a sympathy to the Palestinians which was mainly theoretical- never marred by memories of living together in the old country or by day to day business transactions or disputes.

Yafa says laughingly "I have no teeth in my mouth till this day because of their dentists…"
More seriously she added that "even today, if we citizens had a chance to leave the leadership out, both sides would like to keep this relationship going. They felt at home here. I mean, they BUILT our homes. If I see someone I know from the past, I'll invite him in and make him a cup of coffee. No problem at all".

There's always been another track to the relationship. Ilan, Yafa's brother, is one of many people from Sderot who used to work at the border crossing between Israel and Gaza, only a few kilometers away. "They didn't know how to keep the good they had", he said. "The crossing has been closed for ages, after all the millions that were spent. All the workers from Sderot were fired. In the last attack in the Karni crossing, two were killed". Ilan fondly remembers going fishing with Gazan friends only a few years ago. "We could really benefit by keeping in touch with Gazans, they are honest merchants, easy to work with. I'm sure they miss past times, too".

Ayelet Bechar - Alma Films