After four wars in 13 years, or four battles in a single conflict punctuated by intermittent periods of calm, many Israelis and Palestinians on Friday expressed a weary sense of deja vu about the latest Gaza ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.
“Life will return, because this is not the first war, and it will not be the last war,” said a shop owner, Ashraf Abu Mohammad, in Gaza. “The heart is in pain; there have been disasters, families wiped from the civil registry, and this saddens us. But this is our fate in this land, to remain patient.”
There was little to celebrate in the hard-hit northern town of Beit Hanoun, where residents, many of whom had lost loved ones, surveyed the wreckage of their homes. “We see such huge destruction here, it’s the first time in history we’ve seen this,” said Azhar Nsair.
“The ceasefire is for people who didn’t suffer, who didn’t lose their loved ones, whose homes were not bombed.”
From Gaza City to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the same sentiments were echoed as the ceasefire came into force. Even among Palestinians who celebrated the ceasefire as a victory, there was a recognition – once again – that the most likely consequence of the cessation of violence would be a return to the status quo ante.
“It’s good that the conflict will end, but unfortunately I don’t feel like we have much time before the next escalation,” said Eiv Izyaev, a 30-year-old Israeli software engineer in Tel Aviv.
Victoria Solkovits, aged 22, who is studying conflict resolution and mediation at Tel Aviv University’s Beer Sheva campus, was also cautious. “The ceasefire is a few days overdue, but I think it will hold,” she told the Guardian. “But only for a period of time.
“Without a political solution it will always come back to violence and flare-ups. The pain Israelis have gone through, especially in the south, and the level of destruction that Palestinians have been feeling on the other side, makes absolutely none of it worth it.
“We’ve seen this cycle of violence before, where we eventually come to a ceasefire when it’s politically convenient. In a few years it will flare up again and it will be the same justification. In the meantime, it’s Israelis and Palestinians who are the victims.”
“I’m still digesting it all,” admitted Joni Rokotnitz, 46, an artist, musician and animator who lives in Jaffa. “I’m trying to wonder what has been achieved other than death and destruction, but maybe it’s brought some things back up on the agenda.
“I’ve been through it before – we get used to it on the ground. It’s very depressing and it only sows more division, and more people lose loved ones and experience fear. I can’t see anything good coming of this. I wish it were different.”
At his home in the farming community of Netiv Hahasara on Israel’s border with Gaza, Shaike Shaked, aged 61, is grateful his house was not hit this time after it had been three times in the past conflicts, a fact that prompted him to send his daughter with his three grandchildren and wife north, 100km from the border.
“I lost sense of the time. I couldn’t sleep there because of the constant mortar bombardment. I stayed because I have workers and I have to make sure they are secure and receive all what they need. The shelter was shaking all the time during the bombing.”
Some people were more positive about the ceasefire. In Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem, Hamdi Diab, aged 47, saw the ceasefire as a “victory for all the Palestinian people. People were so happy. I went out at 2am to celebrate; the whole camp went out to the street.
Mazen Deeb, a 54-year-old Palestinian architect from the West Bank city of Ramallah, also argued that the latest round of fighting had achieved something.
“There is no doubt that the ceasefire is an excellent thing. The ceasefire completely changed the equation in the Middle East. It is a victory for all the Palestinian people.
“What happened will force Israel to reconsider its calculations and reconsider their behaviour toward the Palestinian people.”
Agencies also contributed to this copy