On the eve of Yom Kippur, moment after the completion of the army's withdrawal from Lebanon and hours before soul searching commences, northern residents feel secure.
In Kiryat Shmona, the city that sustained the bulk of rockets fired at Israel by Hizbullah during the war, residents spoke in favor of the army and welcomed the withdrawal of troops from Lebanon after more than 80 days.
The fact that the Lebanese army and United Nations peacekeeping force will be manning the Lebanese side of the border, is causing no alarm among residents – not at this stage at least.
Single mother Mazi Ben-Shimon, returned to Kiryat Shmona with her son Sahar last Thursday for the first time since the war erupted on July 12.
Her house suffered a direct hit in the first week of fighting as she sought refuge in Kibbutz Gan Shmuel.
Soldiers returning from Lebanon (Photo: Tzafrir Aviov)
"First, I believe this is a professional decision by the military echelon, which believes that at this moment in time there is no danger that Kiryat Shmona and the north will be attacked by Hizbullah and that we achieved the targets we set for ourselves in this war," she told Ynet.
She continued: "Second, as a mother, I know that each soldier who served in Lebanon has a mother waiting at home. I am certain that if there is no need to keep our sons in Lebanon, we need to return them to Israel to protect us from the border, as they always did."
Border with Lebanon (Photo: Yaron Brenner)
About returning to routine she said: "I saw the destruction a day after the war, and since the ceasefire I preoccupied myself with rehabilitating the house and rehabilitating my life and my son's life. It was a difficult experience which we won't forget for a long time."
Eitan Davidi, Chairman of the Border Communities Forum, also believes that the withdrawal from Lebanon is another step towards returning to normal life.
"After six years during which no prime minister or defense minister dared to reenter Lebanon to thoroughly deal with Hizbullah, this time this happened," Davidi told Ynet.
Davidi said that the head of the Mevo'ot Hermon community, Beni Ben-Mouvkhar, organized transportation for residents wishing to temporarily leave their homes to give IDF troops space for maneuvering along the eastern border.
"When I travel today with my children on the northern motorway between Kibbutz Manara and Margaliot and I don't see a Hizbullah post or a terrorist armed with rifles or stones, I know that we won the war," he added.
"In some weeks we will complete repairing the damages and will return to normal life which I hope will last a long time. On the eve of Yom Kippur, northern residents need to go to synagogues and pray for the return of the captives, for the recovery of the injured and embrace bereaved families. This operation was for us and the feeling of security is slowly returning to the homes of citizens living in the north," he said.
Residents of Nahariya, Maalot and Metula expressed similar hopes.
Hotels and youth hostels in the Galilee are expected to have 90 percent of available rooms occupied by travelers over Yom Kippur.
IDF sources confirmed Sunday that Israeli army forces have completed their withdrawal from southern Lebanon, in accordance with the decision of the political and military echelons.
The IDF said in a statement that it holds the “Lebanese government responsible for peace and security in its territory.”
IDF forces completed their withdrawal from Lebanon early Sunday, in accordance with the political and military echelons’ decision.
“The army’s redeployment is being carried out according to UN Resolution 1701, this after the reinforced UNIFIL and Lebanese army forces took up positions in the south,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said.
Military officials stressed that in the near future, the activity of the Lebanese and UNIFIL forces will need to be monitored closely, while the Northern Command will also have to address the important mission of deployment on the Israeli side of the border.
As part of Israel's policy to prevent a return to the reality that prevailed prior to the war, Defense Minister Amir Peretz instructed the IDF to toughen its rules of engagement against Hizbullah forces on the border.
At the same time, soldiers will be asked to use discretion and caution, as not to accidentally hurt Lebanese army or UN forces.