In Ashkelon’s city center on Wednesday, people walked past stores, occasionally
greeting one another, and there was traffic on the roads, but locals said
activity was half of what it usually is.
Earlier that morning, the
coastal city’s 117,000 residents awoke to air raid sirens and blasts in the
Hamas fired a heavy salvo of deadly Grad rockets at Ashkelon, and
the Iron Dome anti-rocket shield intercepted them all.
protection offered by the Iron Dome, the residents remained on edge throughout
“It’s frightening to wake up to seven blasts in the morning,”
said Elad, a 33-year-old business owner. “Every interception causes two to three
more thuds as the rocket disintegrates.”
The presence of the Iron Dome
has made a world of a difference, he said, but added that the reality of living
in a city targeted by rockets from Gaza remained surreal and
Locals are on alert for the sirens at all times, whether
walking down the street, driving, or dropping their children off at
“I held my two-month-old baby close when I heard the blasts,”
Elad said. “He doesn’t know what the sounds signify, but he can feel the stress
in the home.
“When you’re not at home, you think about your family when a
siren goes off and wonder, is everyone okay?” Elad’s mother was wounded by a
rocket attack on an Ashkelon shopping center in 2008, and has been diagnosed
with post-traumatic stress disorder. Every time an air raid siren goes off, she
suffers a bout of anxiety, he said.
“What would people in London or Paris
do if a siren went off and they heard explosions? How are we supposed to react
to years of this?” Elad asked.
“We don’t want war. I don’t hate Arabs.
But we’ve been under rocket attacks for years. I can’t see a political solution
to this, unfortunately. No one wants to see anyone go into battle and
endangering themselves, but it looks like only a military solution might help,”
While Ashkelon has physically and economically recovered from
the hammering it took in the December 2008-January 2009 Gaza conflict, many
inhabitants remain emotionally scarred, and sharply recall the continual sirens,
blasts and casualties.
Since 2009, cranes have littered the cityscape, as
investors buy up and develop property.
A renewed all-out conflict would
endanger that growth, Elad said.
“I wouldn’t bring my workers into the
city in that situation. Nor would I come to work myself,” he said. “It’s a tough