Nationalist fervour, anxiety and indifference in Israel's north

Communities are responding in different ways after recent clashes along the border with Lebanon.

Northern Israel near the borders with Lebanon and Syria [Al Jazeera]
The land along northern Israel's border with Lebanon [Nils Adler/Al Jazeera]
The land along northern Israel's border with Lebanon [Nils Adler/Al Jazeera]

Northern Israel and occupied Golan Heights - A loud bang echoes through Kiryat Shmona, an Israeli town near the Lebanese border that has all but become a ghost town in recent weeks.

A young Israeli soldier flicking through his phone at a traffic stop nonchalantly looks up. A small puff of smoke can be seen over a lush, tree-lined hill.

The locals go about their errands with semiautomatic rifles slung over a shoulder or a pistol wrapped around one of their thighs.

Erez, a straight-talking shop owner, estimates that around half the town has left, leaving the place with "no life".

She has only opened her store to socialise with those who have stayed behind. She motions to her friend, Talia, who is sitting on a stool outside the shopfront and who, like others from Kiryat Shmona, only wanted to give her first name. Behind them, rows of mannequins draped in denim face out onto a dusty, sun-drenched courtyard.

On October 7, the armed wing of the Palestinian group Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel. Israel has responded with a near-constant aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip and cut off water, power and fuel supplies to the 2.3 million people who live inside the Palestinian enclave.

Since then, tensions on the Lebanon-Israel border have flared between Israeli forces and the Iran-backed group Hezbollah and Palestinian factions operating in Lebanon.

Both sides have exchanged fire. A Reuters videographer, Issam Abdallah, was killed last week when Israel fired artillery across the border.

The Israeli military has claimed it has been targeting fighters attempting to enter its territory.

The community is abuzz with rumours that Hezbollah has attempted to kidnap locals.

Erez says she has heard of three such attempts, Talia almost a dozen, but they both agree that everyone is worried.

People have invested heavily, Erez says, in building concrete bunkers; they all have permission to carry weapons from the government, but still, many have chosen to evacuate.

A sense of fervent nationalism is palpable; all the remaining locals appear prepared to fight.

Linoy, a young, shy hospitality worker, says she no longer has a job because the local tourism industry has stopped due to the war. Her parents left the country, so she is alone at home, only venturing out to walk her small dog. On Friday, after a heavy cross-border exchange of fire, Israel on said it would evacuate residents from Kiryat Shmona.

Source: Al Jazeera