Beersheba car rocket damage 248 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Walking through the rubble on the floor of Gabi Ben-Hamu's Beersheba home on Sunday, everyone was talking about miracles.
It was hard to imagine joy, or at least awe at a time like this. Ben-Hamu's recently remodelled ground-floor apartment had absorbed the majority of a Grad rocket strike, which had landed nearby just hours before.
The outside wall of the home was pockmarked with holes - the rocket's now-infamous calling card - as the ball bearings and crude pieces of metal inside the explosive had sprayed out at the time of impact, sending hundreds of small projectiles through the air.
Inside the home, glass and wood were scattered across the floor. A once comfortable and modern dwelling had been destroyed, and Ben-Hamu sat in the kitchen, welcoming visitors with cups of coffee and a cheerful smile that didn't seem to go away.
"Thank God." he said. "We were really lucky."
"But Gabi, what about the windows?" someone asked.
"I can fix the windows," Ben-Hamu replied. "But my family, that's a whole different story."
Ben-Hamu recalled the moments just after hearing the siren, when he and his wife had rushed their three small daughters into the apartment's safe room, and within seconds, heard an earth-shattering boom.
"The glass had been blown out of all the windows, shrapnel had flown through the house, basically everything went flying," Ben-Hamu said. But by getting into the safe room and closing the door, he said nothing short of a disaster had been prevented. "It came down to a matter of seconds," he said. "Miracles and wonders are happening here."
Nearby, a Chabad elementary school had been peppered with shrapnel from the same attack. "Miracles and wonders," said a woman in the school's office. "The rocket landed in the exact spot the buses unload the students for school. If there had been class today, the rocket would have hit at the same time the buses would have been there. It would have been a disaster."
But it's not just in Beersheba, nor was it only on Sunday.
Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead and amid the hundreds of rockets that have rained down on the country's southern cities and towns, the acknowledgment of miracles and wonders has been uttered countless times. A rocket hits a home dead-on, and no one is wounded. A rockets slams into a school, after classes had been cancelled the night before.
Even on Monday, as rockets continued to pound the South, the worst wounds reported were shock. Two rockets hit Beersheba again on Monday morning, landing in open areas within the city limits.
"Sure, great stories are traded freely these days," Shaiel Yitzhak, a population behavior officer with the Home Front Command, told The Jerusalem Post. "Some say it's good luck, others say it's a 'miracle,' but everyone agrees that it's something beyond nature. But on the other hand, we're not out of the storm yet, the night is still young. I can't stress enough the importance of our instructions, and how important it is that people follow them. Miracles and wonders are fine and nice, but safe rooms and shelters are the safest places to be when you hear a siren, and people need to be [strong] in their reactions - go to the shelter, go to your safe room.
"If there is no safe room or shelter in or near to your home, you must go into the inner-most room of your home, with the fewest windows and fewest ceramic tiles. Stay as far away as possible from the top floor of your home or apartment building. And if you are outside, lie down on the ground, I don't care if you tear your jeans or get your sweater dirty. By lying down on the ground, you make yourself the smallest possible target for shrapnel. Miracles are good, but I don't want anyone relying on them. Citizens must remain vigilant in following the instructions that the Home Front Command has worked so hard to disseminate."
Nonetheless, the residents of the South have proved themselves brave under fire thus far, without signs of letting up. As the construction crew worked at Ben-Hamu's apartment to repair and clear away damage from Sunday's attack, neighbors were outside, laughing and passing each other cold drinks.
"We'll stay out here and wait for the next siren," a middle-aged woman said, as her kids played next to her. "The shelter is right here, we can run there if we have to. But thank God, we've been lucky so far. Two or three rockets have hit Beersheba every day since the fighting started, and I don't know anyone who's said, 'That's it, I've had enough.'"