May 21, 2007 / 4 Sivan 5767
"The situation is terrible. Just terrible," says Ehud Edri, the easygoing 30-year-old owner of a hair salon in the center of Sderot.
"Trying to run a business in Sderot is not easy," says Ehud. "For seven years we've lived in the shadow of terror. But lately, times have been very hard. When rockets fall, customers don't come. Checks bounce. Every day I don’t work puts me back a month. I still have to pay my taxes and my bills. No one cares that I'm not earning enough to pay."
Looking around his almost empty salon, on a day when over 20 Kassam rockets hit Sderot, Ehud talks of his optimism of a few weeks ago, when he received an unexpected gift from the Jewish Agency through caring donors from around the world. A gift that truly touched him.
"My accountant told me that the Jewish Agency was giving grants to small businesses and I might be eligible. So I applied," says Ehud in his friendly, outgoing manner. "And what do you know, I was given $1,000."
"This is the first time that I've ever received anything for free. The first time people in Sderot were given something without strings attached. The whole town was talking about it," he says, still a little surprised at this generosity. "It was an amazing feeling and it helped me to get out of debt a bit. Every penny counts."
Ehud, the son of Moroccan immigrants, grew up in Sderot. He loves the place and opened his salon five years ago because he wanted to invest in the town. He and his wife, originally from Ofakim, have a 2 1/2 year old daughter, Or. "She is the light of our lives and if anything happened to her, I don't know what I'd do. We think about leaving Sderot, but where would we go? And what about my clients? I couldn't leave them."
But Ehud says that the situation in Sderot has gone beyond physical fear. "Emotionally, we've been deeply scarred by the situation. No one lives a normal life anymore, and I am afraid that the children here are lost. What kind of childhood can they have when they can't play outside, when they are trained to run for cover the minute they hear the warning siren of impending rockets. It takes a tremendous toll."
Surprisingly, Ehud holds no ill feeling toward the Arabs in the Gaza Strip. "Like us, they need their government to invest in new infrastructure. They need hope for a better life. I truly believe that if both sides are economically stable we will have a better chance for peace. We need to live side-by-side. Their hatred is not getting them, or us, anywhere."