In Ashkelon city center, pedestrians walked past stores, occasionally greeting
one another, and traffic was visible on the roads, but locals said the activity
was half of what it usually is.
Earlier that morning, the coastal city's
117,000 residents awoke to the sound of air raid sirens and blasts in the
Hamas fired a heavy salvo of deadly Grad rockets
at the city, and
the Iron Dome anti-rocket shield intercepted them all.
valuable protection offered by Iron Dome, the city's residents remained on edge
throughout the day.
"It's frightening to wake up to seven blasts in the
morning," said Elad, a 33-year-old local business owner. "Every interception
causes two to three more thuds as the rocket disintegrates," he added. The
presence of the Iron Dome has made a world of a difference, he stressed, but the
reality of living in a city targeted by rockets from Gaza remained surreal and
disturbing, he added.
Locals are on guard against the sirens at all
times, whether walking down the street, driving, or dropping their children off
"I held my two-month baby close when I heard the blasts. He
doesn't know what the sounds signify, but he can feel the stress in the home,"
Elad said. "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 injured in a 2008
rocket attack on an Ashkelon shopping center, and has been diagnosed with
post-traumatic stress disorder. Every time an air raid siren goes off in the
city, 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 endanger themselves, but it looks like only a military solution might
help" he added.
While Ashkelon has physically and economically recovered
from the hammering it took in the 2009 Gaza conflict, many inhabitants remain
emotionally scarred, and sharply recall the continuous sirens, blasts, and
Since 2009, cranes have littered the city scape, as investors
buy up property and develop it.
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