Just 40 miles from the border between Israel and Gaza, Keith Berman is afraid to shower, concerned he won't be able to get to a safe place if a rocket comes near his Tel Aviv apartment.
"I am sitting waiting for [the] cease-fire which probably won't hold but at least it will give us a break," said Berman, 46, who moved from Tamarac to Israel in 1988.
Egypt announced Hamas and Israel had agreed to a cease-fire Wednesday, but South Floridians who live in Israel — and their families back home — are still on edge.
"It's definitely giving me anxiety," said Berman's sister, Melissa Di Salvo, of Parkland.
Berman is among many Jews who have "made aliyah" — the Hebrew word term that means "to go up" and describes the act of moving to Israel. Those who move do it as a religious mission or cultural ideology, or both.
In the seven days of violence, Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes, targeting rocket launching sites, weapons caches and homes of Hamas activists, killing more than 120 Palestinians. The Palestinians have fired hundreds of rockets at Israel, killing several Israelis.
Israel, reacting to the more than 700 rockets fired into southern Israel over the past year, calls the move self-defense. Hamas, which does not acknowledge Israel's right to exist, calls it the fight against occupation of their land.
"War is not the solution," said Sofian Abdelaziz Zakkout, who is director of AMANA, the American Muslim Association of North America, in Miami. "All countries have the right to defend themselves, but [the Palestinians] don't have one tank, one plane and they are the victims and Israel, the war machine, has the right to defend itself?"
Tensions are still high, and Berman's three children are sent to sleep in their clothes, instead of pajamas, in case they need to run to a secure area. Berman himself goes to his underground gym to shower.
"I think most people do not want the army to go into Gaza; the risk to our soldiers is very high," Berman said. "At the same time, we can't have missiles landing on people in the south. It's a big dilemma."
He runs a program for American teens to study abroad between high school and college. The teens now are volunteering on an army base, packing canned food and chocolates for soldiers to carry if they go into Gaza.
"There is constant speaking with students and parents," he said.
There's no break for Charlie Zablotsky, whose worries about family in Israel won't let him sleep more than couple hours in his Hollywood home.
"I can't concentrate on a personal level, I can't concentrate on much else, I'm thinking about this all the time," he said. "I'm worried about the Israelis, I'm worried about the children who have to live in bunkers who can't go to school."
His sister-in-law is a police officer whose job is to identify the bodies at the morgue and deal with their families. "My wife speaks to her every night," Zablotsky said. "It's heartbreaking."
Sandra Katsoff, of Delray Beach
, said her son and his three children living in Tel Aviv are at the forefront of her mind.
"It's extremely stressful. Wouldn't it be for you?" Katsoff said.
She too is praying the cease-fire works: "Hopefully it'll last."
Some South Florida residents are pleading with family to flee the rockets fired from Gaza.
Rabbi Mendy Cheruty's parents and sister live in Kiryat Malachi, near Ashkelon, next to an apartment building where three people were killed last week.
"I was crying all day when I heard that these people died, and I pray a lot," said Cheruty, of Aventura. "I told them to leave, to go. It is very stressful for them."
Cheruty's family have moved to the central part of the country to try to escape the missiles.
The falling missiles have David London on edge. London, who moved to a community just south of Jerusalem in 1991 from Hollywood, said he heard a missile fall Friday.
London, the director of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, just mailed a comprehensive guide in English to thousands of his members of instructions for emergency prepardness. On Friday, he had to follow his own rules when he found safety near a concrete wall to protect himself from falling shrapnel.
"You get a little nervous," he said.
Still, he worries there are more problems to come, especially because his oldest son is an Israeli army medic stationed in the north near Lebanon.
"Everything leads to another thing," London said. "A lot of us are more concerned with Hezbollah stationed in Lebanon. One thing can lead to another thing so there's a general feeling of concern in the country. You're concerned all the time. We just called our son, we are calling him every day."
Berman tries to reassure the parents of the children in his program the teens know what to do — find a bomb shelter, a secure room, or the inner stairwells of an apartment building or anything with cover if they are in an open area, he said.
"Even if it is merely in the simple act of remaining here, they are helping the morale of the country and saying that they really do stand with the people of Israel. ... they are one of us now," he wrote in an email. "We have voluntarily chosen to be a part of the Jewish people and to support the state of Israel. And not just in words, but in deeds."
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