Abstract: Life on the Border: What Communities in a Region of Military Conflict Have to Say (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Life on the Border: What Communities in a Region of Military Conflict Have to Say

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Merav Moshe - Grodofsky, PhD, Academic, Sapir Academic College, Sderot, Israel
Menny Malka, PhD, Academic, Sapir Academic College, Sderot, Israel

Background and Purpose

Communities in the Otef Aza or Gaza Envelope Region in Israel, bordering the Palestinian Gaza Strip, have lived with continuous military conflict for close to two decades. Initially exposed to homemade missiles only, over time residents have experienced the effects of large-scale rockets, underground tunnels, incendiary kites and bomb-laden balloons initiated by Palestinians. This in addition to three major military operations launched in the region by Israel between 2007 and 2014.

This study focused on the lived experience of communities residing in this region of prolonged conflict. The goal of the research was to understand both the daily experiences of the residents as well as their aspirations for the future. The question that guided the research was "Can you tell us about your present-day experiences and aspirations as a resident in a region of on-going conflict?"


Research was conducted in the community-based participatory research (CBPR) paradigm, part of the broader body of participatory action research-PAR. 154 in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted. Regional social service departments enlisted participants together with a community snowball process. Additionally, a focus group with research steering committee members was conducted. 102 women and 52 men ranging in age from18-90 participated. Participants included veteran regional residents and regional newcomers, residents living right on the border and those residing some 15 miles away. Interviews and the focus group discussions were transcribed and analyzed using principles for thematic analysis. Major themes were identified and categorized. A list of cross-cutting themes was compiled and transcripts revisited for fine-tuning to identify the central themes that told the story of the Gaza Envelope communities.


Data analysis focused on the experiences, the meanings and the wishes found in the interviewees stories. Three themes emerged. The first articulated the continuum of a sense of threat and a desire for security. The second theme captured the centrality of community and recognition. The third theme addressed the resident's desire for peace and coexistence with their Palestinian neighbors. Compiled, the themes relayed the story of a region in conflict.

Conclusions and Implications

Findings highlight the experience of residents of the Otef Aza communities living with on-going conflict. The findings underscored not only the residents' concerns, yet also their aspirations for the future, suggesting that notions of recognition and hope, together with a sense of community are critical in mitigating contexts of on-going military conflict. Recognition, hope and community are resources that can be cultivated. For civilians residing in regions of prolonged military conflict, these resources are necessary to mitigate the psychological and communal effects of such an environment. If we are to respond effectively to civilians residing in regions of prolonged military conflict, practice and policy efforts may need be focused on these resources. Findings suggest that the experiences may not be unique to this region alone. Hence the research process and findings may be useful for communities living in other regions of conflict around the world.