SDEROT, Israel — The Cinema South Festival held in Sderot this week, June 3-6, which attracted thousands of visitors, has brought smiles back to the faces of the merchants in the town’s shopping center. For the first time since the fighting ended in the so-called Operation Pillar of Defense, a relaxed atmosphere prevails over this development town. While its counterparts in southern and northern Israel have made progress and even prospered, Sderot has remained stuck in a cycle of poverty and destitution that it seems unable to escape.
No other town in Israel has been so heavily bombarded by missiles, rockets and mortar shells as Sderot. Any flare-up between Israel and Hamas made Sderot a hostage, at the mercy of the intense hostility between the two sides. A recently released study shows that depression and anxiety cases among the residents of Sderot nearly doubled as the rocket fire on the town escalated since the beginning of the 2000s.