From his perch next to the gaping rocket hole in the roof of the Hydrotherapy
Center next to Sapir Academic College on Sunday, Oded Koren had a perfect view
of spots where rockets fired from neighboring Gaza have struck over the past
RELATED:Grad missile lands in Ashkelon
Pointing to the white plastic chairs set up under a green
plastic awning just outside the center’s indoor pool, Koren said that rockets
hit twice before, in 2007 and 2008.
Each time, they shattered windows in
the building, but there were no injuries, said Koren, who is in charge of
security for the center.
A security guard was once wounded by a rocket on
a road leading to the center, and a student was killed on the campus, Koren
Miraculously, he said, the center, located between the college and
Sderot in the Sha’ar Hanegev region, was closed on Saturday night, when the
rocket tore into a fitness room for disabled children. It also destroyed a room
used for yoga and birthing classes as well as an office.
Late on Sunday
afternoon, wires and tiles hung from the ceiling and furniture was overturned in
the rooms, which were filled with dust and debris.
The direct hit
followed a Grad rocket in nearby Ashkelon on Friday morning, which narrowly
missed a large apartment building.
But the damage to the three rooms on
the second floor of the Hydrotherapy Center in Sha’ar Hanegev, which serves as a
fitness center for locals and offers rehabilitative services for the disabled,
The rest of the building was unharmed. Outside of the red
taping material that blocked entry to the second floor, it was not possible to
see any damage to the structure from the first floor or even outside.
opened as usual in the morning,” Koren said.
Leading The Jerusalem Post
through the building, he showed how swimmers were busy doing laps in the pool
and the fitness room, with its treadmills and weight lifting equipment, was
“Normal life was restored very quickly,” he said as he stood in
the lobby as calming music played and members of the center entered the
airconditioned building with sports bags thrown over their shoulders; just like
any other summer day.
The receptionist said that on one hand it did make
her nervous to work there when she thought about the attack, but on the other
hand, she lived nearby and a rocket could just as easily strike her home, and
almost had in the past.
The center’s fund-raiser, Varda Goldstein, said,
“No one will get the better of us.
We will continue to fight for our
right to have a normal life here.”
She returned from Europe on Sunday
morning and went straight to her office from the airport.
Goldstein said, it was unharmed. She added that the center was the only one in
Israel that integrated the disabled into a regular fitness center.
Ashkelon, Friday’s attack left more visible damage.
The shattered windows
of the apartment building’s ground floor, where office space was under
renovation, had yet to be replaced.
A car whose rear window was also
destroyed when the rocket hit nearby was still parked in the small
Glass shards littered the sidewalk all around the
But half a block away, it was a normal day for French immigrant
He manned the counter in a hardware store that also
sells toys and cutlery.
Outside his store, not far from the beach, he had
hung rubber boats. Leaning against the window were rubber rafts and inner tubes.
Balls tied up in a net hung from the cement awning.
Customers flowed in
and out. Baruch-El said that it was in all ways a normal day.
morning, he was in the parking lot on his way to open the store, when the siren
He understood immediately what was happening and sought refuge
behind the wall of a building.
Within moments there was an explosion. The
ground and the building shook. “It felt like an earthquake,” Baruch-El
He held his ground for a bit, fearful that a second rocket was on
its way, before going to find out what had happened.
He filmed what he
saw on his iPhone and showed the Post shots of that morning.
slim, dark-haired man came to Ashkelon six months ago, in spite of the rockets,
because he thought it would be a good place to live.
He is not deterred.
“I came to strengthen the country. I am a very strong
Similarly, he had no problem continuing to work in a store that
lacked an area protected against rockets.
“You can’t change your fate. If
you are supposed to die, you will die,” Baruch-El said.