Onlookers at Gush Dan Iron Dome battery 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
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
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
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
the knowledge that his city was no longer out of rocket range.
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
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
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
“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.