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Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
Iron Dome – the best show in town
By BEN HARTMAN
20/11/2012
Missile defense battery outside Tel Aviv draws bevy of onlookers.
 
In a country with no shortage of pilgrimage sites, few right now can compete with the Iron Dome missile defense system, in particular the battery set up in the Gush Dan region on Saturday.

Pointing and speaking about the system in reverential tones reserved for the Western Wall or the graves of holy men, dozens of curious onlookers climbed up a hill outside Tel Aviv to gaze down at the battery on Monday, hoping against all hope to hear an air raid siren and see Iron Dome paint its contrails across the sky, leaving the remnants of a Fajr-5 rocket drifting to the ground.



Awe-inspired onlookers are a common sight at the Iron Dome batteries already set up in Ashdod, Ashkelon and elsewhere, but before Saturday in Tel Aviv, such entertainment was hard to come by, especially for free.

Chen Koko, 17, rode to the top of the hill on Monday morning, his mom, Rinat, on the back of his scooter, hoping to get lucky after coming for three days in a row from his family home a few blocks away, narrowly missing each launch.

While his mom spoke about her plans to bring containers of spaghetti for the soldiers manning the system, Chen described the fear of hearing the rocket sirens over Tel Aviv for the first time last Thursday, and the knowledge that his city was no longer out of rocket range.

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“The first I heard the siren it took me about 10 seconds to realize what was happening, and then I ran about 100 meters to a shelter,” Chen said. “You have no idea where it will land and you start to understand the fear of the people living in the South.”

A few minutes later over a dozen students from a nearby Sephardi yeshiva appeared on the hill and began questioning the journalists and onlookers about how the system worked, and how it knew when to fire and where.

Yosef Haim, 19, said the students had heard each siren in Tel Aviv since last Thursday, and that when the siren went off on Sunday they stayed put, continuing their studies.

“If you’re asking if I feel safer here next to the Iron Dome or at the yeshiva studying, I feel safer when I’m studying because God is watching over us,” Haim said. “If the rabbi tells us to go to the safe room, we’ll run.”

The reputation of the system precedes it to a certain degree. It’s not foolproof and it misses its target at least 10 percent of the time. In addition, the confidence and security it inspires causes some citizens to take risks, heading up to roofs or the balconies to film Iron Dome chase a rocket when they should be heading for the nearest shelter or stairwell. In the most tragic example, last Thursday morning 28-yearold Itzik Amsalem was one of three killed by a direct hit on his apartment building in Kiryat Malachi after he insisted on remaining in the living room to photograph Iron Dome shooting the down the incoming rocket.

Father of three Solomon Jacob, who made aliya three years ago from India, came with his wife and one of his sons for the second straight day after seeing the system down a Fajr the day before.

“It’s amazing,” Jacob said, adding that while his family’s apartment nearby had a safe room, “we don’t go there because we know we have the Iron Dome here.”

By the time the sun set and the photographers and school kids had begun to make their way home, the crowd on the hilltop began to thin as the city that never sleeps made it to nightfall without a rocket siren for the first time since Thursday. For those who came to see the best show in town, it turned out that a day without rockets could be a little bittersweet, too.
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