Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90

‘The customers are back; it’s a different world now,’ Prosper Peretz, the owner of the store, said.

by Troy O. Fritzhand

The first supermarket in Sderot has reopened more than five months after the Israeli city near the Gaza border was mostly evacuated due to the ongoing war with the Hamas terror group.

“The customers are back; it’s a different world now,” Prosper Peretz, the owner of the store, told Israeli media. “All the familiar faces are back in the store and that makes me happy. I worked throughout the war, even though my house was hit by a rocket. I didn’t give up and I didn’t leave the city.”

His son, Dudu, outlined the history of the store, which was opened in the 1950s by Peretz’s father after he moved to Israel from Morocco.

“Dad’s grocery store was the first in the city that was established in the 1950s. My grandfather, the late David Peretz, opened it and bequeathed it to my father,” Dudu said. “Since then it has been operating.”

The youngest of the three, who was evacuated to the Israeli city of Kiryat Gat with his family in the early days of the Gaza conflict, added, “In the second week of the war, the rocket hit my parents’ house and the store was also damaged. My parents evacuated for only one week, to Eilat, but even during that week that they were in the hotel, my father never stopped complaining that he wanted to go back to the store and open it.”

Now, with residents returning, Dudu’s father finally got the chance to reopen his doors and take part in his favorite aspect of the job: running the meat counter. Calling it his “special love,” Peretz mans the butcher’s corner in the shop, something he has done since a young age due to his deep love for grilled meats.

Sderot is located just over half a mile from the northern border of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and was hit intensively during the Palestinian terror group’s surprise invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7, when terrorists killed over 1,200 people and took hostage more than 240. Israel has responded to the massacre with a military offensive aimed at incapacitating Hamas to the point that it no longer poses a serious threat.

In a notable incident during the war, Hamas terrorists took over Sderot’s police station in what became an overnight battle to regain control, leading to the death of 18 members of the police.

An additional 50 civilians were killed by the terrorists throughout the city. Following the attack, most of the city’s more than 30,000 residents were forced to flee from their homes, alongside more than 100,000 others from the region. Like Peretz, many ended up in Eilat, as well as the Dead Sea and Jerusalem areas.

More than five months into the war, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) authorized the return of residents to cities near Gaza, including Sderot.

With people mostly back in the city, schools have been able to resume. According to the Education Ministry, 55-60 percent of all students are now back in the classroom.

“Thousands of students and educational staff returning to their natural place, to their home — this is the beginning of revival,” Israeli Education Minister Yoav Kisch said last week. “For me, this is a kind of second opening of the school year. Congratulations to the students and parents.”